Tonga to fiji

Tue 12 Aug 2008 21:28
Date 12-08-08
Position 18:07.32S 178:25.5E
The Yacht Anchorage, Suva Harbour
Well, we made it here, and Suva turns out to be a great place, very different to everything that we have seen so far. This Capital City is far from the Airport, and completely without tourists. These we shall meet later when we travel upcountry to make our crew changes later this week. The Indian influence here is very strong, and we are replete after a quite delicious curry downtown this evening. The girls have retired to bed, leaving me to transcribe our accounts of the voyage.
Here was a sailor's dream for the taking: Tonga to Fiji, 420 miles accross the South Pacific, 4 sundrenched days; my two youngest daughters for company. Just check in the blue water sailor's bible: "World Cruising Routes", by Jimmy Cornell "....the passage between Tonga and Fiji can be very rough". H'mm, glad to have a set of 'gribs' (wind speed forecasts) for the next five days showing a fairly steady 10 to 15 kts of wind from the east: ideal for an easy beginers crossing.
After the Coronation we were able to 'check out' of Nuk'alofa on Monday morning, the 4th of August. A final coffee/ hamburger in Friends Cafe, and we were back on 'Fleck' in the late afternoon, heading east to the Egeria Channel, out into deep water between reefs and the Island of Atata. Fortunately the tide was down, and the seas were breaking on the reefs, making them visible. Some good visual transits enabled us to make fairly safe progress, despite the inaccuracy of our charts in relation to GPS positions, and by nightfall we had a mile of water under our keel: a lot more comfortable than one fathom!
We set up our downwind twin headsail rig, and made fair progress. Olivia asked for the middlewatch, but got confused with the time and ended up on deck for five hours from midnight to 5am.. She hasn't been quite the same since!  Anyway we didn't hit anything, and next day was hot and sunny, if a little short on wind. Olivia was exhausted, and Hannah had Nintendonarcosis. I managed some sewing jobs, and enjoyed the peace. By the evening we were down to 2kts, and a frustrating night lay ahead with flapping sails, and often less than 1kt speed through the water. Wednesday was Charlottes birthday, and we had promised ourselves chocolate cookies for a breakfast treat.
As they cooled on the top of the oven a bank of black cloud rolled in from the south, and after a preliminary skirmish with a westerly wind we settled down under a brisk SE wind with rain and big seas. We had force seven for a few hours, then force six for the next 24. The crew remained calm, but became very pale. We cracked open the Stugeron (anti-sick), and all felt better. Even so the children remained rather quitened, and were to remain in their pyjamas for the next three days!  This did not prevent them from grabbing the best sheltered spots in the cockpit, leaving yours truly as navigator, cook and bottle washer! Thursday dawned with a little pale sunshine, and this was to be our 'best' day: sparkling cresting seas, blue skies, and a foaming bow wave. We passed the horseshoe shaped Totoya Island (the reef within is not navigable) in the late afternoon, and I cooked a vegetable stir fry for supper. Hannah was eeking out fried sausages cooked on Monday! She lived on these, white cabbage salad and chocolate cookies. We continued to make good progress through the night.
By dawn there were only 60 miles to go, but the wind became lighter still, and even with our reefs rolled out it became clear that we would not make Suva before dusk. The kids were keen to be in and ashore, but I was stressed out with the navigation problem of, once again, charted and GPS positions not coinciding. Moreover at dusk, just as when driving, visibility is a real problem. We were looking for the charted leading red lights to guide us in through the pass in the reefs, only to be confronted by three large steamers coming out. At least they all saw us, and we squeezed against the side of the reef to let them pass. In fact their presence was helpful, as we could follow their wake back into the harbour, and we finally picked up the leading lights: blue ones!! With confidence restored we proceeded cautiously to the quarantine anchorage; Olivia in the bow, scanning the water ahead for obstructions, still in her pyjamas! That night we all slept very well indeed.
When we set sail Livvie went to the bow to go sunbathing and I did some maths with Dad. At lunchtime, which is twelve o'clock, we had bread and cheese. When it came to bedtime the sea was very rocky. It took ages to get to sleep. Next day I went sunbathing too, and played on my Nintendo. We always had the same for lunch. After that I did some more maths. The next day I didn't do maths, instead Dad told a story about pirates, parrots and talking pigs. That night I was on night guard. Next day we saw land, it was very exciting.
If you need the toilet on the boat it is very hard to open the door, the waves are in the wrong direction; to flush it you have to pull a handle up and down twenty times.
In the evening we had to take down the sails and start the engine which was very hard work. Then we put the anchor down which was also quite hard.
When we finally got to sleep it was nearly midnight, we had been in our pyjamas for the whole trip.
Tonga was so very pretty,
the weather oh so hot!
but Nuk'alofa wasn't much of a city,
and so we sailed away on our little yacht.
We bravely said farewell to  land,
as off our feet fell the last specks of sand.
(Skippers note: thank heavens!!)
and as the sun dipped below the sea
we feasted on a little tea.
But now the night was here -
and with dawn no where near!
So at midnight Han and I took the wheel,
and although tiredness we did feel
We silently watched with our sleepy eyes
as the stars blazed above us in the skies.
Although han left, I stayed -
and for five hours I stayed up - without even getting paid!
And so five days at sea did start,
'Fleck' sailing to Fiji like a little dart,
the sea all around us a boundless entity,
stretching on around us for eternity.
100 miles later we picked up extra crew -
a sea bird on the bimini (but he didn't go to the loo)
A while later off he flew -
so just flying fish then, nothing new.
On Charlies birthday we didn't make a cake!
We made biscuits! which didn't take long to bake.
But that day there was a change in the weather -
the waves began to roll high, and I was at the end of my tether.
The rain fell, stopped and then started,
the boat rolled and rocked as across the sea it darted.
The nights were long and disturbed,
even Hannah was preturbed!
However it all got better, but still we were tired of sea.
I'd read enough books, even for me!
And so soon enough land was sighted,
'though it's silhouette was barely lighted!
and on a warm Friday night our journy ended
and the sleep that night all our tiredness mended.
So Tonga to Fiji and no one was killed.
Won't Granny Gregory be absolutely thrilled!