Ha'apai group

Lars Alfredson
Mon 27 May 2013 06:16

20130524 Friday – Ha’ano to Lifuka


Under clear blue skies the temperature rises rapidly and the relative cool of the night disappears. By ten o’clock it’s risen to 30C from 26C though the water temperature stays stable at 28.8C.


As the tide falls we find ourselves surrounded by near exposed reefs with mini breakers now running across them.

Low tide is around 12:30 and has a range of just over a metre which will leave these reefs very close to the surface and if exposed would kill surely them.



                             Exposed reef at spring tide


We start our snorkelling around noon when the sun is highest giving the best light for filming. Launching ourselves off the stern of the yacht

we slip into the warm clear waters. We’re “flying” at 10 metres above a sandy bottom littered with small islets of coral that rise up a metre of so, each with their own micro colonies of fish.


The bottom becomes more litter with dead coral and as a large dark outline comes into focus as we hit the main reef that rises vertically from the bottom.

The individual coral that make up the reef come in a myriad of colours and shapes from yellow, purple orange and white some dome shaped like

a huge brain others like large umbrella supported by a delicate tapering column that anchors them precariously to the reef.


P5240019    P5240030

                                   Brain coral                                                                                                                   Coral mushroom.


The reef is teeming with fish or all colours, metallic greens, iridescent blues, and the rich orange of Clownfish as they lurk in the purple tipped

tentacles of the sea anemones. Filming, we drift slowly through the shoals. A few dash into the protecting branches of the corals, but generally they seem pretty indifferent to our presence.


The tide has now reached it lowest point and a few of the corals poke through the surface maintained only by the surf that now rolls over them

and threatens to strand us on top as we swim through the shallow valleys and over them.


Time for lunch as we swim towards the yacht and haul ourselves back aboard.

A shower, a beer, all this swimming is thirsty work, and lunch.


Well it’s been a perfect day so far, but then disaster strikes.  Lars’s head (Toilet) has pump appears to have ceased to function.

Oh dear, first it has to be emptied then the pump dismantled. The sweet scent emanating during this process is better imagined that experienced as anyone who has ever tackled this problem with appreciate.


Undaunted he struggles on replacing valves various in the pump before reassembling it. An appropriate word is heard to come from the offending

toilet area and on enquiry I am advised that the system is still not working and major plumbing works to trace a blockage we have to be undertaken,

tomorrow! Fortunately we have two Heads and “Mon Capitan” will have to slum it, in the crew Loo.


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                             Clogged valve                                                                                                   Getting at the pipe workj


Anchor up and we set a course for the main “Town” of Pangai on Lifuku, the next island down the chain.

We moor near the ferry dock and head for town looking for the Immigration office. Enquiring of a friendly native busy on his mobile phone,

he not only points us but takes us to the offices. During the walk he informs us he a pastor of one of the many churches on the island.


The office is located in and “L” shaped collection of single story tin roofed buildings and is shared with the Post Office.

The paperwork is minimal for a change, but he’s not happy with another boat we saw leaving as we approached as they did not bother to check in at all.


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                 Customs and Immigration offices.                                                                           The grandest building in town.


He gives us directions to the “Mariners” restaurant which we had been advised back on Vava’u had ceased to operate.

To our delight the restaurant which also declares itself  as the Ha’apai Yacht Club bears signs of life inasmuch as the chalk board declares “Open at 6”.


Parts suitably polished and a clean T-shirt to boot we return. They do basic food, so it’s Hamburgers for dinner, bottles of “Maka,”

(Though the beer is not very cold and we have to switch to Heineken) and glory be, Wi-Fi, which they will switch on for 6 Pa’anga and hour.


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                           Mariner’s bar                                                                                             and Yacht Club.


We send the latest blog and pix’s but I can’t get my E-mails to download and Lars’s computer too decides to play up so it’s been a battle to get the blog off before his battery runs out.


Nightcaps under a full moon making the night like day, the gentle lap of waves against the Hull and the music of Eva Cassidy lulls us to our bunks. 



20130525 Saturday – More “Head” aches


After breakfast we decide to move off to the next island of Uoleva and check out its reefs and the resorts that are shown on the Charts.


It’s only four miles away but we have to take care weaving our way through the reefs especially as the Marks and Buoys are not always

what one would expect. As an example we spot what we think is the last mark through the reef only to discover it’s the concrete stump of a previous mark.

The new one, further north consists of what one might consider a garden light, on a long thin pole.


Arriving of its flanking reef we work our way down until we spot the stunted remains of the mark that appears on the chart.

It’s so small it would be underwater at high tide. Turning we turn our bow towards the long wide sandy beach and passing over several deep heads to anchor in the lea of an easterly wind, some hundred metres off the beach in 7 metres.


No peace for the wicked as its back to the plumbing for Lars. This now involves emptying the storage locker and dismantling its wood work to gain

access to the pipe work. Removal of the hoses reveals that they have calcified to half their original diameter and it takes some vigorous hammering to crack and remove it. Finally the blockage is found at one of the joints.



                               Beating the shit........ 


 Inspection of the main change over valve that switches the outlet to sea or holding tank discharge is clogged solid and its seals so damaged that it’s beyond repair and has to be replaced.


At one o’clock a halt is called for a well earned beer and lunch before the replacement process re-starts. A very ripe Avocado and a skilfully

contrived sandwich of cheese, salami and whatever else could be found, made for the break, before a return to the job in hand.


A few intensive hammering sessions and the pipes are de-calcified and refitted along with the new changeover valve.

Tests have been successfully completed so now all that remains is a clean up operation before the woodwork is refitted waterproofs and diving gear returned to the locker and order restored.


Meantime its off in the dinghy which we tie up to the trunk of a fallen coconut palm and head up the soft sand beach which runs the whole length of this side of the island.


On our way we pass one of the “Resorts” which consists of a group of Fales, palm roofed huts with extra tarpaulins draped over them and very little else.

The “Lonely Planet” guide describes them as “very basic accommodation, has unbeatable beachfront positions…..there is no electricity or running water

(Though we did see a water tower) on this virtually uninhabited island. Bring your own drinks, food and mosquito repellent.”


Further along we find some coral patches to swim to. In all the excitement of the day I had forgotten to bring my camera and as sods law

dictates we came across our first, beautiful but deadly scorpion fish slowly drifting around the reef.


But enough fun there’s work to be done and woodwork to be replaced so its back to it for Lars while I dig into the freezer to see what gourmet

delights we can come up with for tonight’s dinner. Frankfurters surface and look like they’ll be the choice of the day.


After some difficulty deciding what wine from our ample cellar would be the most suitable accompaniment to our Frankfurters we settle on a bottle

of Minervois 2010 from Carefour’s “expert selection. Who were we to disagree?


Having transmitted the blog we down load a Grib wind file and see that the wind is going to move to the North. Fine for continuing down the Islands

but as we have to check out back at Ha’ano it would mean a long beat back into the wind. As Gentlemen only sail downwind we have the option

of staying here and exploring the island or doing some more snorkelling, which leaves us with a short 4mile beat back


To our bunks. It’s a clear moonlit night which I spend listening to the whistling of the siphon break valves that wheeze with every roll of the boat on the incoming swell.



Bob the Blog