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.