Thursday, December 18, 2008

Mom has arrived safe and sound. She was pretty tired as she was unable to sleep on the 12 hour flight. We didn't do much the day she arrived but have been touring around ever since. The day after she arrived we went to Russel and visited the oldest chuch in New Zealand as well as an old Caltheolic tannerty and printing shop. That was pretty interesting, they had a guide that demonstrated how to set type and print a page in very old printing press.

Yesterday we took a bus tour up to the very northern tip of New Zealand. We drove along 90 mile beach, the bus zooming along the beach as the tide was coming in. There were spots where fresh water streams emptied into the water and the bus would slow down and then plow across the water. I am glad we did not decide to take the car up there as I do not think Barry would have attempted some of the spots the bus went carooming by. At one point there were a couple of car skeletons that had gotten stuck in the sand on the beach and they were still there.

At the end of the beach we drove up one of the rivers and then we stopped and went sand tobaganning. The sand dune was really steep and I was a bit worried about flying down the hill. If it had been snow you would have been out of control going down the hill but the sand had enough friction that the sled did not go too fast and I had so much fun I climbed the hill twice.
We headed up to the northern tip of the country from there. There was a path down to the lighthouse there and you could see where the waters from the Tasman Sea collided with the Pacific Ocean. There was alot of upheaval and current in the water and I would not want to get my boat anywhere near there!!
We stopped off at several beaches and view points after that and ended the day at a shop where they made furniture and carvings from Kauri wood. These trees were logged extensively at the beginning of the centure so the wood they are using now has been found in swamp land that has been drained. The wood is as old as 45,000 years old. It is lovely strong wood that was used in ship building and making spars for masts, there are few knots in it due to the way it grows. There was a table and 6 chairs for $20,000 NZD!!!!!!! I would have to buy quite the house to put that in.
Today we are planning to go and look at the one of the oldest building in New Zealand as well as a waterfall and the mission buildings.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Bold Spirit in the sunset. We were within VHF range for 7 out of the 10 days so we had someone to talk to and they could report our position to the Ham net we were following.

Sunset near the Tropic of Capricorn

Repairing the radar, notice the fishing tape around my arm. I must have shoved that thing up and down the mast about 10 times before it finally worked.

My morning walking buddies.

Hilly, hilly New Zealand.

Saturday afternoon saling for the juniors at the Opua Crusing Club. They take their sailing seriously.

We went to a Santa Clause parade in Kawakawa about 20 minutes away. This train is a big tourist attraction.

Santa New Zealand style.

We bought a little car to get us around. It is a Daihatsu, a Japanese car and it is called an Applause. It is a 1995 and it has 200,050 km on it, but it seems in pretty good shape. We only paid $1000 NZ Dollars which we figure is about $750 Canadian, a pretty good deal I figure. And yes I am sitting on the correct side of the car. Whenever I am driving I have to think, outside shoulder to the middle of the road, so far it has worked, but sometimes I really have to think about it!!!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Hi there, I have been having a break from the blog. I have just not had the energy to do much of anything since we arrived. Our passage was a pretty good one as crossings of that stretch of water go. Reading the log entries, we had a bit of everything. We had calm winds and seas where we motored and then we had seas we had to beat into where the boat was bashing to weather. At those times it was hard to sleep because it felt like the boat was going to come apart it was smashing into the waves so hard. The calms and the bashing bits seemed to alternate quite nicely though so we were given time to recover from the bad bits during the quiet times. The last day and a half the wind moved around to the north and we had the wind behind us blowing us into New Zealand. We were in short sleeves and shorts enjoying the sunshine as we sailed into the Bay of Islands. It was a marvelous way to end our trip.
We were very happy to arrive, it was a huge relief after all the horror stories we had heard about sailing here. It took me about a week to get my head around the fact that we were here and that we had to figure out what to do now. Everyone kept asking what are your plans and where are you going and when??? I just wanted to tell them to quit asking me questions and when I had anything figured out I would let them know. Barry has been very busy getting repairs done to the boat, he knew what he had to do and I just watched him do it.
The marina had a welcome to cruisers week the first week we were here. There was an open house at the chandlery and the sail loft as well as a bus trip to Whangarei. We ordered a new genoa and got a bit of a discount at the sail loft and took the bus trip to Whangarei, which is another port south of here where we going to leave the boat when we go touring with Mom. New Zealand is very hilly, the roads are extremely windy and narrow and there is something different around every corner. The hills are grassy and have sheep or cattle grazing, most of the land is fenced as well. We are staying at the Opua Marina and have a slip here for a month. It is nice to just be able to step off the boat and access all the businesses that cater to boat repairs. The only trouble is that it doesn’t have much else. There is no grocery store, only a small convenience store, one restaurant and one coffee shop.
Our buddies on Taran have bought a car and they have very generously taken us shopping a couple of times. The other day they were going to a bigger town near here and we went along. We replaced our camera which was one it’s last legs after being smooshed when I fell on it in Apia and I finally replaced the sheets the laundry lady in the Marquesas lost. I got my glasses adjusted so they no longer drop off my nose as soon as I look down and Barry got a new pair of fake crocs after he discovered a hole in the pair he has been traipsing about in.
Barry has been working away at all the small jobs that need to be done in order to get the boat back into shape. He has packaged up the ham radio to send it back to Canada to get it repaired under warranty. I spent about five hours hanging half way up the mast trying to string the new cable for the radar. We finally got it done and the electrical guy is in the boat at the moment trying to connect it and then Hallelujah we might have a working radar again!!! (If you want details ask me when you see me, I can’t believe how much work it was.) Barry took the water maker out today and took it in to see if they can repair a small leak which it had developed. I made a huge list when we were under way so I guess we need to look at it to see what else we need to do. Barry was going to put a replacement part in the head yesterday to stop it from flooding and when he went to turn off the sea water inlet the inlet flange broke, so we no longer have a head that works. Good thing there is a small washroom that is fairly close. The plumber is supposed to arrive today to have a look at that; I sure hope he shows up. That is our life so far, I will try to keep more up to date.

Friday, November 21, 2008

It is 5:53 PM Pacific time. Ann just called and they are in the Bay of Islands and will be at customs in a few hours. They have a following wind and a following sea and they have been sailing the heck out of it to get to their destination. The wind is 20 knots on their beam and it is sunny. They have had some cold weather with the wind in their face. They have had to bundle up to keep warm. They are really happy to finally be there. They have come 1023 nautical miles on this last crossing from Tonga. There are lots of rocks and green hills that they are looking at. Ann sounded excited. I know what a great sight land is after a long crossing.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Once again they are without wind and motoring. It is nice and sunny there now. They have been motoring all night and on and off today depending on the wind. They continue to make good headway as you can see and expect to arrive on Sunday morning(it is Thursday there as they have crossed the date line ). Ann indicated they need to keep going as every so often some bad weather comes up and grabs them. They are expecting the winds to shift so they are not heading into them. The forecast is for the winds to move around to the west and then the north. All is well and they sound in good spirits.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Just spoke to Barry. They are currently getting wet. They have just put the sails up but have been motoring since 5 PM yesterday. They caught a fish, a Wahoo. Very good eating. Barry said they can't catch too many more or they will have to toss some of their supplies overboard when they get to New Zealand.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Ann and Barry are currently in 25 knot winds with a triple reef in the main and the stay sail is up. Winds are from the SE and they are beating into the wind with a speed of 6 knots on a course of 180 degrees magnetic (due south). There is a front coming through and there is some rain. It does not sound like they are having a lot of fun at the moment.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Wow, they have gone a long way in 2 days. There is another boat they are in touch with that is on about the same course as they are. They are able to get weather reports from them. They are traveling at 190 degrees magnetic (just west of South) at 3.5 to 4 knots. They were beating into the wind at the time of the phone call.
Being curious I asked their destination. It is Opua. It is the red ballon at the bottom of the page. I also asked if they were stopping at the islands that are 1/2 way. The islands are 100 miles of reefs and Ann and Barry are not stopping.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

This is Bob. Ann's brother. I was Helmsman Bob on the last big voyage but I am not sure if that name applies now that I am no longer on the boat. Ann called a few moments ago and was very excited. They have departed for New Zealand. For all you sailors out there they are travelling at 6.5 knots with a wind from the east at 15 knots. I have a map with their current location. If you double click on the map you will get a much larger view.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

I have to tell you about the rat. It is not our rat, but Bold Spirit’s rat. They think they acquired the rat at the dock at Big Mama’s here at Pangaimotu in Nuku’alofa. The rat joined their ship by jumping on their dinghy at the dock, riding out to the boat and crawling up the lines from the dinghy to the boat.
Well the good folks on Bold Spirit, Cathy and Jeff were petrified that the rat would get below. They shut up all their windows and their companion way, leading to very uncomfortable conditions below due to the heat. They very discreetly asked around for a rat trap, you don’t want everyone in the anchorage to know that you have a rat!! We supplied them with one and they put out peanut butter laced with boric acid and sweetened condensed milk with boric acid. The rat imbibed and left droppings during the night so he was there.

Today we dropped by to see if they had caught the “dirty rat” (a la Jimmy Cagney). We helped them put up their main sail to see if the rat was hidden in the folds of the sail. I was perfectly prepared to scream at the sight and everyone watched with great anticipation while the sail went up, NO RAT. The suggestion was then put forward that the rat could have possibly gotten into their water tanks because they had the tanks open when they were catching water the other day. This idea was quickly squashed by Cathy, perish the thought, some rat swimming around doing his thing in your water tanks, YECH!! We left after Jeff had surmised that the rat may have jumped ship, he was not happy with the boric acid snacks!
We went over to visit Tin Soldier, anchored about 100 meters behind Bold Spirit. Lo and behold they had seen “that dirty rat” aboard last night. Man who would believe it, the bugger had swum over and climbed up their anchor chain, Maybe, maybe not, we will never know! The saga of the rat continues stay tuned for updates.

Pictures are from a tour we took around the island of Tongatapu last Wed. The picture of the tree is where Captain Cook landed in 1777 and they say it is part of the same tree that is growing there, pretty neat. The rocks are huge and were brought here from another island and erected in the twelveth century. How did they do it???
We are hoping to leave for New Zealand on Wed. or Thur. this week. My brother Bob has agreed to do updates for us on the crossing so look forward to hearing from him.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

There is supposed to be a picture here, it is in the Ha'apai Group. I wonder if it will show up. Well I put the picture in twice and it won't work, I give up. I will try sending them to Trish and see if she can put them on for me!!!
Ask and you shall receive Mom. Great pics
Four boats left this morning for New Zealand and five more are about to leave, the lemming effect is in full force!! We have decided that we will wait at least another week before leaving. We had planned to wait until about the middle of the month before leaving as we have been told that the later you leave it the better because it is less likely that you will get a winter storm from the New Zealand area. We have decided to contact a meteorologist in NZ and have him do our weather routing for us. He will send us a detailed set of co-ordinates to follow to go around the lows and the highs and hopefully we will have a passage without too much trauma and some wind, this sounds like a good plan to me.
Last night we had the best time we have had in a long time. Where we are staying is at a cruiser hang out that is run by a couple, the man is from NZ and the woman from Tonga. The hangout is called Big Mama’s, they have a restaurant/bar with ping pong tables, dart boards, volleyball nets, etc. It is on an island that they own, given to them by the king, and they also have some fales, or small thatched cottages for non-sailing guests. You can walk around the island in 20 minutes and there are lovely sand beaches most of the way around.
It was the owners’ 60th birthday and Big Mama threw him this wonderful party. She didn’t do anything for him when he was fifty but she promised him if he lived another 10 years she would do it up right, and did she ever. She invited all the cruisers to a traditional Tongan dinner, all you had to pay for was your drinks. They engaged the guys from the Nuku’alofa police band to play. There was 4 guitarist, 3 horn players, and a drummer. 2 palangis or white people (cruisers) joined in. on fellow on the sax and one on harmonica. It was marvelous. Everyone danced, the people that served the meal, the bartenders and all the cruisers, a cross cultural blast. I have a picture of Barry dancing with this beautiful young island girl, she was gorgeous. We took a picture of all the Bluewater Cruising Canadians that were there and believe it or not there were 7 boats and 21 people in the picture, then we all danced to Take It Easy. The Tongans let loose and danced up a storm, what fun.
We are planning on taking the water taxi into Nuku’alofa tomorrow to check out of the country and fax off our “inward” report to New Zealand. They are the strictest country that we have entered so far. There are all sorts of food you are not allowed, such as fresh fruits and vegs, fresh meat, eggs, honey, any thing that might sprout, they will examine your flour and pastas to make sure you don’t have bugs and on and on. Planning our food intake for the crossing will be tricky. We have contemplated motoring up and down in front of the customs dock and stuffing ourselves with whatever we had left and telling them we would dock as soon as we ate all the food we couldn’t bring in!!! Ah Well. We are also hoping to take a tour of Tongatapu so we will do that sometime next week.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The last few days we have been sailing around the Ha’apai Group of islands in Tonga. This group is the undiscovered gem of the South Pacific. There are 100’s of islands, many which are uninhabited. Many of the islands are small, some you can walk around in an hour. The outside of the islands are covered in beaches and the interiors are covered in palm trees, breadfruit trees and other luxurious vegetation. There is a thorn in this rosebush, which are the reefs. They are everywhere. We do not have paper charts for the area and our electronic charts are about 200 meters out, so we navigate by eye. When we are sailing we are constantly on the lookout for light blue water, the lighter blue the water, the shallower it is. The other giveaway is breaking white water, you don’t want to be surprised by that. This is all a bit nerve-wracking and for the first few days I did not enjoy our sails at all. We do not travel at night and if it is cloudy we stay put because you cannot see the reefs if it is really overcast. Fortunately we have been blessed with really settled weather since we have arrived so have not had to hunker down and stay in one spot because of weather.
We have stopped at 5 islands so far, we are heading south all the time. Yesterday Barry rowed the dinghy ashore (he has been rowing for exercise lately, I swim back to the boat for mine) When we hit the shore we beach combed for about an hour. We found some lovely shells; the island was off the beaten path so the shells had not been picked over. Barry battled with some coconut trees trying to get them to give up their fruit. No luck, he whacked and whacked with a long stick but the coconuts refused to fall. On the other side of the island he was in luck, and once he had gotten one to fall he took out his knife and cut it up and we slurped the coconut juice out to satisfy our thirst. It is hot work, strolling along a beach on a deserted island in the blazing sun!!! Back on the boat he hacked away at it some more and we ate the fresh coconut for a snack.
As the sun was starting to set a couple from a boat that was anchored about 3 kilometers away came over. They introduced us to Una, a Tongan who was living by himself on the island next to where we were anchored. They invited us ashore to have a fire and munchies at sunset. When we arrived having safely dodged the reefs in the dying light; we sat and watched the sun set. Then Una went night fishing to catch our dinner. He had a light and a spear gun and away he went. While he was gone we got the fire going with coconut fronds and shells and some wood. When he came back the fire was almost perfect and he cooked the fish that he had caught. We sat around and shared our stories and ate very fresh fist to our hearts delight. This was the experience we had been looking for when we came to this group. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, and then set off for a new adventure this morning.

I have some lovely pictures but will load them later, this computer is slower than molasses.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

We are safely in Nuku'alofa, the capital of Tonga. Nuku'alofa is located in the Tongatapu Group of islands and is the furthest south. We are anchored about a mile out of town at a spot called Big Mama's. You can get a ferry into town from there and we checked in today and wandered around until we found an internet place. There is no WIFI here unfortuneatley so our access to computers will be somewhat limited. I have a blog back on the boat about our time in the Ha'apai Group and will upload that later. People are leaving tomorrow for New Zealand but we will wait until the next window to go, or maybe the window after that. We are in no rush and want to explore this spot. There is a big shipwreck near where we are anchored and I want to snorkle around there. More later.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

We are in the Ha'api Group of the Tonga Islands. This is the middle group of islands. We plan to cruise these islands for a week or so and then head south to the Tongatapu group where we wait for a favourable weather window to make our passage to New Zealand. The weather and when to leave and what route to take to New Zealand is the topic on all the cruisers minds. Everyone has their pet theory on the best way to make the passage. We are expecting to have some bad weather somewhere on the passage and we are not looking forward to that. The boat is in good shape and should be able to take anything providing that we give her a chance to handle it so we just have to keep our wits about ourselves and we should be fine. Barry will make sure that I keep my aggressive instincts in check and I will make sure we move along at a good speed so we have less time for bad weather to find us, so we should do well!!
We had a great anchorage for a couple of days when we arrived here. The snorkeling was some of the best we've had, the visibility was fantastic and there were quite a few different fish that I hadn't seen before. The coral was alive and there were many different varieties in the anchorage. I walked into town with some other cruisers and was surprised to see crops of sweet potatoes ready to pick. Tonga is a fairly poor country, the people to not have much but there is lots of fruit to eat and the fishing is pretty good. This village was well looked after, neat and tidy with yards with lovely foliage(sp??).
Barry and I have been passing the time playing Scrabble lately. I broke up his three in a row victory the other day but succumbed to his superior skill yesterday.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Hi Everyone,
Ann and Barry made the crossing from the one group of islands to the next with no issues It was a bit of an uncomfortable journey due to a funny wave angle but they are settling in and I am sure exploring their new surroundings. I had problems trying to load in a Google earth map so I will update later.
Hey Mom,great photos of the cave, that looked like a great adventure.
Hope you all are well.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

We are back in the harbour in Neiafu after being out at different anchorages for about 10 days. The weather has not been great with a lot of very windy days and rain. When the wind is up we don’t like to leave the boat when we are at anchor in case the anchor drags. We managed to get in some visiting and attended several dinner parties, playing dice and other games into the wee hours of the night. There hasn’t been nearly enough snorkeling or swimming for me, but Barry is happy to just stay in a safe spot.
We are planning on having Thanksgiving with Toketie, our Canadian buddies from Victoria, we have a turkey purchased. I bought a pumpkin so I can make pies and menus are in the works. We are not quite sure where the dinner is going to take place but hopefully Toketie will decide where they are planning on going soon, we said we didn’t care so wherever they feel comfortable with will suit us.
Barry had a cane made for himself. It seems to be helping him out particularly going up stairs and hills. He is looking for a rubber bottom for it. I took the dinghy the other day and headed for one of the caves that are in the area.
It was quite stunning, I entered a high tide and the sun was shining in. The water was so clear that the sunlight cast a blue reflection inside the very spacious cave. It was at least 6 meters high and there were several large caverns. The birds that nested in the roof were flitting about inside, Barry wouldn’t come with me as the dinghy ride was fairly long and he now finds it uncomfortable to sit that long in the dinghy.

One of the anchorages was on the far eastern side of the islands and when I climbed the island to the windward side the ocean waves crashing into the shore was quite spectacular. We are still planning on heading to the next island group further south, the Ha’apai Group and then to the mostly southerly islands, the Tongatapu Group. After that it would be just waiting for a good weather window and then about a 10 day sail to New Zealand, weather depending of course.

Monday, September 29, 2008

We are hanging out in an lovely anchorage about 10 miles from Nieafu. We have met up with our Canadian buddies, Taran and Toketie again. We are getting lots of good visiting in as well as some fun in and on the water. We snorkeled the other day and yesterday I borrowed someone’s kayak and headed off for a paddle. The kayak does not have a skirt so when I got to another boat and leaned over to push myself off the boat, over I went. It must have been quite comical. I decided to see if I could get back into the kayak from the water. I managed to get on but could not balance myself well enough to get my feet in. It was about an 1/8 full of water. The poor fellow on the boat I went to visit had to help me haul up the kayak and empty it out. It was too heavy for me. I was very careful the rest of the trip to not tip over.
We went to a Tongan feast the other day. It was lovely. The kids did some traditional dancing, it was amazing that at the ages they were, about 10 to 16 that they had mastered the intricate hand movements that are a large part of the Tongan dancing. There were 2 boys who did some war dances and the clashing of their wooden staves made me wonder how many times they had mashed each other in practice. The food was delicious. There were over 60 people there and when we were lining up for supper Barry was panicking because it looked like there was not going to be enough seating for us at the tables where all the food was laid out. They brought in another table for us and we had more than any one, so we ate to our hearts content. The chicken which was wrapped in taro leaves and cooked in the underground oven was delicious. Everything was served in the traditional way with no silverware or dishes, so you ate with your fingers off of banana leaves and coconut tree stems as well as unripe papayas. Yummy
We plan to hang around here awhile longer and then move further south to the Ha’apai Group of islands. We hope to be in the Tongatapu Group about the beginning of November, planning to leave for New Zealand somewhere in the middle of Nov. Everyone is planning for the trip, trying to figure out when would be the best time, and the best angle to sail. New Zealand has very strict entrance regulations so provisioning is a challenge. You don’t want to have too much because you will just have to throw it our, and you want enough to make sure you get there with enough food. Fun, fun, fun! Hope all is well at home,

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Barry and I went to a Roman Catholic Church service today. Barry is wearing the traditional Samoan lava lava. In Tonga the men (as well as women) wear this as well but they wear a mat over top of it. I asked why they wear the mat and we were told it was as a sign of respect to their elders, a traditional form of dress no doubt. These mats are woven out of fronds. Some of the weaving was so small it would have taken hours and hours to weave, it was really quite amazing. Notice the young boys have them on as well as the woman by the car.
The church service was a real experience because of the singing. They sang acapella (sp??), there was a choir conductor, he would play the beginning notes on a instrument that he blew into but had piano keys on it and then he would just keep time with his baton. They sang without music or words, in 5 or 6 part harmony, fantastic; it gave me goose bumps. The priest spoke a few words in English at the beginning of the service and at the end. He was going on about something he thought was important, and laughing at his own jokes. Women participated in the service which I thought was very liberal, but was told later that they do that world wide now.
After we had 3 buddies over for lunch and we had a lovely afternoon, Hope you have a good Sunday tomorrow.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I had a blast last night at the races. We should have by rights come in dead last but it is just a really fun time and nobody notices if you break the rules, or screw up really bad, which is what we did! The boat I was on had a solant stay, which is a stay that is very close to the forestay so you can run two headsails. This means that in order to tack you have to roll in the genoa so it can get around, not a good sail set in a very short race when there is some tacking involved. ANYWAY, we went around the first mark and we were in the thick of things, 5 boats converging on the mark at the same time. Our tillerman decided to sneak around the inside and then we had to tack, oh oh, the owner hauled in the jib to tack and I was trying like heck on the other winch to pull the sail in when the owner figured out he had forgotten to let go of the other line. Well by this time we had drifted into the bouy that marked the turn, a huge no no in sail boat racing, then we managed to hook the dinghy that tied to the mark and started to drag the 6 foot wooden dinghy into the water. The look on the poor guy’s face who was in the dinghy was outstanding. We managed to let him loose and then had to listen to Barry, who was on an different boat harass us about our lousy sailing.
Oh yeah, we were also 40 seconds to late to the line and the accusations were flying as to whose fault it was, yup, we were racing.
We sailed the short course because we were a smaller boat and ended up being 6th across the line. The owner got a prize of a free dinner, so all was well that ended well. There is no handicapping or attention paid to rules so it was a fun way to race. We ended off the night having dinner and drinks at the Vava’u Yacht Club. Barry even managed a few dances later on in the evening.
Not much to report. Life here in Nieafu is a social whirlwind. We have been meeting old friends and making new ones. We are invited out to a 60th birthday celebration tomorrow. This afternoon I am going to go racing on a 30 foot boat. The race is just a short one in the harbour, sailing amoungst all the boats on the moorings so it should be fun. I guess a few weeks ago two boats collided!! The skipper on the boat I am going on has assured me that if there is any question of right of way, we will give way and there will be libations aboard, so I am game. He has refused to fly the spinnaker though so I may rethink my participation on his boat!!!!!
I have not taken any pictures here yet, I must remedy that situation.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

We are now in the Vava'u group of Tonga. This is a cruisers mecca. The whole town seems to be set up to part cruisers from their money. There are about 100 boats just in the harbour, not to mention in the other islands. It makes for a wild spot although you get to see everyone who has been crossing the Pacific with you. Everyone waits here until there is a good weather window to New Zealand. We are going to work our way further south and leave from the most southern group of the Tongan Islands, where the King lives. We have been told to wait until at least the middle of Nov. before we leave so we have 2 months here. There are lots of islands with beautiful clear water and sandy beaches to explore. The humpback whales are here and we are hoping to go swimming with them. It is fairly expensive but we think it would be the experience of a lifetime. I have swum with hammerhead and lemon sharks so far so humpback whales would be breath taking. I have no pictures of the town yet but do have a good shot of the volcano we climbed in Niuatoputapu.

We are getting the laundry washed today, will hang it to dry on the boat, yesterday when it rained all day we washed off the boat with the fresh water and caught water so we don't have to make it. I washed the floors and sole or floor on the boat with the fresh water. We also took down the genoa to make sure it wasn't chaffing too much and Barry checked on the windvane lines. Just so you don't think all we do is play!!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

We had a boisterous passage from Samoa to the northern Tongan island of Niuatoputapu. The winds were on the beam about 20 knots and the seas were 3 to 4 meters. We took the main down about 6 hours into the voyage and the staysail and a bit of genoa had us flying along at over 6 knots most of the time. Wendy, our wind vane decided she liked that sail set and we let her steer most of the way. It was a wet ride with waves breaking over the dodger from time to time dousing us. One wave took out our weather cloth on the port side, the only thing that saved it was it was my trusty knot!!

We have been having a great time here in Tonga. This island has just over 1000 people on it. There is one store that we could see, a health clinic and government offices. The people do not have much, the houses are very basic. Fishing is a big part of their life; fruit grows well here, bananas, papayas, coconuts, oranges and limes, they eat taro and breadfruit for their carbohydrates and there are a lot of pigs on the island, so I don’t think they will go hungry.

There is a local lady who is arranging stuff for us to do. The first day she picked us up at the wharf in the evening and drove us to a dance. The older men just sat around in a big circle (cross legged) and drank kava, a drink made out of a root. It is an acquired taste, leaving your lips with numbness and if you drink too much, affecting your balance, I believe it has some narcotic properties to it. The young men were very polite and asked all the female cruisers that attended to dance, it was fun.

Yesterday we arranged to go and climb the volcano on a nearby island. We were picked up at our boats by a big wooden fishing boat. There were a total of 10 of us in the boat, 5 locals and 5 cruisers. We crossed the 4 mile strait between the islands and we were all soaked by the time we got there. The locals fished on the way over and about half way across the driver slowed down and started hauling in his line. His wife had to help him and all of a sudden the fish was beside the boat. It was a huge sailfish, about 5 feet long. It had a long spear and a beautiful sail on his back, the sail or fin was about 18 inches high. It took 4 of them to get the fish into the boat, they really had to wrestle with it, once in the boat they plunged a knife into it’s head and it was dead, it was amazing to see how they managed to manhandle it, no net, no bonker they just grabbed it and then the knife!!

We got close to the volcanic islands shore and the boat pulled close to shore to let off 3 guys to go fishing. The driver was maneuvering the boat so that one guy could jump off the bow, he was holding a big net. The driver was trying to get close to the reef, but he misjudged it and the boat slammed into the coral, the boat tipped over about 40 degrees and the guy on the front was thrown into the water and over went the net. We were all thrown around and the guy in the water was yelling because he was afraid he was going to loose the net, so 2 of the other guys jumped ship to help him, thank goodness there was still a driver onboard and without no further ado we sped off to where we disembarked. The whole incident happened very quickly and there was absolutely nothing the cruisers could do, we just had to trust they knew what they were doing, hmmm!

We landed and headed off to climb up the volcano. There is still a community on the island, about 60 people; it looked very poor as well. I took on picture of a dwelling with a thatched roof and woven mats for windows, but there was a solar panel outside as well as a satellite dish, 2 ways of life co-existing together. Once we left the beach we had to climb 154 cement steps up to the village, from there we were led up a very steep path to the top. The volcano is 550 meter high. I had to stop and take a breather more often that I would like. I didn’t think Barry would be able to do it, but he took lots of drugs and very stoically gutted his way up the hill, I honestly don’t know how he deals with the pain. It was a real workout, but the view from the top was spectacular. Our guide stopped half way up and cut some coconuts for us as well as papayas. When we were at the top one of the other boats left the anchorage. We called him on the VHF asking about wind and wave conditions, then we told him to turn around and smile because we wanted to take his picture!!!!

We all made it down without incident, a few times Barry stumbled and had to grab on to trees to stop his descent but he never lost his balance. Once we got to the beach we were fed lunch. In the shade of a large tree, the fish that were just caught were cooked over a fire; as were plantains. We were invited to help ourselves and we had a scrumptious meal served on a banana leaf eaten with your fingers, coconuts juice to quench our thirst and a papaya for dessert. I went snorkeling to loosen up some muscles and check out the coral.

The islanders were returning from a trip to Niuatoputapu in their boats and they had fuel drums aboard. The boats would negotiate the pass that had been blown through the coral; once they got into shallow water the fuel drums were rolled off the boats into the water and the drums were spun over and over until they reached the beach. Then all the males standing around, cruisers and villagers, pushed the boats onto the beach. Nice round lengths of wood were put on the beach about 3 feet apart and the boat was pushed up these to the high tide mark. Three boats came in, fuel was unloaded and then everyone heaved it up onto the beach.

It was time to leave. We piled back in the boat and away we went down the pass, the driver timing the waves just right. We all got soaked again on the way back. We had all been out on the ocean 2 days before but somehow the waves look different when you are in a fishing boat, down among them rather than skimming along the top of them like we do in our sailboats. We spotted 4 humpback whales on the way back. Tonga is where they come to have their calves so we expect to see quite a few of the m. It was a wonderful day; I wouldn’t have missed it for the world .

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Hello All,
The crew has arrived in Tonga and they seem to be having so much fun exploring their new surrounding that they have not found time to blog yet. So I thought I would just let everyone know that The Cat's Paw has reported in and all is well.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

We spent the day getting ready to leave, again. The sea has calmed down and there seems to be a good weather window to go to Tonga so we are going to leave in the morning. We spent the morning watching the festival parade. It was very good; I have never seen so many people having so much fun, as they walked they were singing and enjoying life. We are planning, at the moment to land in the northern islands of Tonga at a place called Niuatoputapu, otherwise known in cruiser parlance as New Potatoes. It should be about an 36 hour passage so we are planning on leaving early tomorrow morning so we can enter the harbour in Tonga before dark. We will cross the International Date Line so although it will only take us 36 hours to cross we will have to adjust our calendars as if it took us 50 hours!! That pretty exciting, crossing the International Date Line, makes me feel very far away!!!
These guys were acting out the traditional art of tatooing. The traditional way is to us a sharp pointed object and then tap it on the body so it breaks the skin and the design is transferred to the body in this manner. We saw it being done here and in American Samoa, painfull.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Much to my chagrin we are still in Samoa! The seas are just not co-operating, I am fairly seething with impatience to get going but have bowed almost gracefully to Barry’s wishes not to tackle 7 meter or 20 foot seas. The wind is not too bad but there is a big low down south that is generating the huge waves so it would not be very comfortable at sea and I do recognize this. We checked out yesterday, but Barry said no go this morning so we had to run around and change the dates on all the papers. We hope to leave for Tonga on Sunday. I just need to find a few more boat projects to do and I will be fine.
Meanwhile we have been enjoying the festival that Samoa is having. We went to the dancing and singing one evening, it was great. The evening was capped off with a fire dancing competition, those guys are really amazing.
Barry and I attended our first ever live cricket match. Apparently it was Samoan rules cricket, but we really didn’t know the difference. We sat next to a couple of young English girls who explained some of the rules, it turns out they were medical students here on a rotation. (They are here for 6 weeks and then head to New Zealand for a holiday before going back home to school.) I guess the bat is quite different and the ball is a lot bouncier than a regular cricket ball. The Samoans play in bare feet and the batsmen don’t wear any equipment. The field wasn’t quite big enough, I don’t think, so there were weird ground rules. If you hit the ball out of the field and across the busy road someone could still catch it on the other side of the road. If the ball hit the roof of one of the blue roofed buildings surrounding the field, the fielder could catch the ball as it rolled off the roof and the batter would be out. I am glad we went to watch but I am not sure that I know much more about real cricket than I did when I arrived.
They have been having boat races as well. This shot is of the finish.We were walking back to the boat the other day and a team was going out to practice. We sat and watched them load up the boat, quite the process. Did I tell you there are about 50 rowers in the boat? The race was today and I counted 8 boats, that is 400 rowers, amazing, the harbour was lined with spectators as well. It was quite the event, the race starts about 10 miles away and there was a live radio broadcast, in Samoan of course.
I went into the festival grounds early yesterday and saw them preparing the traditional umu, or pig roast. Here they do not bury it they cook it above ground with hot rocks. The were very meticulous in preparing the area, first a piece of tin roofing was cut the correct size, then a layer of just right sized rocks were put on top, the roofing was outlined in some very large logs.
A well earned cooling off dip after the race as well as the only way to get to shore for these guys.

The rocks were covered with coconut shells and the coconut husks were laid against the logs all the way around. They added small bits of firewood and then larger bits and then they lit it. Once the blaze was going they put another layer of rocks on the top of everything. Quite the process!!!!
Traditionally the cooking was done by the young Samoan men, men that did not have a chiefly title. The commentator said that if you were a young man in a family and you had 4 brothers you had a lot of help with the cooking, if you only had sisters, you did a lot of work!! I asked when a young man would ever stop cooking and he explained that if a chief died the family would get together and vote on who would get the title next and once you became a chief you no longer had to cook.
The coconut was a huge part of this umu. The young men were scraping out the insides of the nuts, and then they would squeeze the fruit and get the coconut milk from it. They added onions and salt to the milk and made a package out of leaves and cooked it on the fire. First they would use about 4 or 5 young taro leaves to make a container, they would fill this with the coconut mixture, next it would get wrapped in a banana leave and then a breadfruit leave and voila a waterproof package was ready to be put on the fire. We tasted it one night when we were out to dinner and it was delicious. I did not stay to watch them sear the hair off the pigs and gut them and then get them ready for the fire. We were planning on leaving the next day so I had to go and check out. It was quite the education in the traditional Samoan way to cook a pig. Tomorrow there is a parade and then the Miss Samoa pageant is at night. I am not sure if we will go to that but I bet it would be an interesting thing to observe.