We left Vavau in northern Tonga after
a happy 2 weeks and sailed overnight to the Ha'apai group of islands. With the
exception of 2 islands to the west, one of which is an active volcano, these
islands are coral and similar to the Tuamotus. The winds had been very light
whilst in Vavau but this passage was hard on the wind and we ended up by
motoring for 8 hours into a Force 6.... not something we are used to. However,
as we arrived we caught a very nice tuna of a sensible size, about 10
We spent 2 nights in an anchorage at
one of the Northern Islands before continuing on to Ha'afeva to catch up with
our friends Chris and John aboard Sara 2. This was a better sail and capped by
catching an enormous Wahoo of 36lbs and 4' 10” long. This fed all the boats in
the anchorage, a family ashore and we are still eating various wahoo dishes a
A Tribute to
While we were in the anchorage an
American cruiser came over and told us we had been invited to a local woman's
house for a Tongan lunch. We walked across the island the following day to the
attractive village. These people are very self sufficient.
There are 2 small shops but with only the most basic of goods.. Pigs roam
everywhere and there are many crops growing in amongst the coconut trees. It was
lunchtime for the school kids and this happy group came and introduced
Judging by the number of children we
saw the island is thriving despite its remoteness. There are no flights here and
only a ship 4 times a year. The older children have to go to the main island in
the south to attend secondary school.
The home where we had our meal did
not appear very lovely.(Note the car which seemed to be the chicken coop.
But indoors a beautifully
presented table awaited us.
was simple; it included lobster, poisson cru, yams, taro, corned beef steamed in
taro leaf and fried fish, all accompanied by drinking coconuts. There was no
charge and no money expected, but the 8 of us who went took various presents. We
took a porthole shaped mirror that we have been trying to find a home for ever
since we bought the boat, the great tail piece of the Wahoo we caught, and a
number of other bits and pieces. The woman, her husband and family seemed
delighted by their gifts.
The neighbour's car also needed a
On the way back to the boat we met
these 2 Mormons, complete with their woven mat skirts, who lived in New Zealand
but whose families came from these islands.
The wearing of these
“ta'ovala” is still very common, although there are a great variety of styles
from these rather daring miniskirt ones to floor length bushy ones with layers
of woven and loose strands worn by some of the older women. The ta'ovala are
worn over black clothing for funerals and are worn for between 3 months to a
year afterwards. The school pupils also have their own versions including for
the girls a sort of vestigial waist mat with strands of woven pandanus palms
known as a kiekie.
After a couple of nights we set off
for Tongatapu, the southern most group of Tongan Islands and a good departure
point for passage to New Zealand. We had an extremely rough overnight sail on
our 28th wedding anniversary to the island of Pangai and the
anchorage at “Big Mamas”. This is a small resort catering largely for yachtsman.
It was the end of her busy season as the cruisers all flee south in November to
avoid cyclone season so she hosted a feast night that apart from drinks was
totally free. Consequently the cameraman had some issues with focusing
out, fuelling and watering took nearly the whole day as it was interspersed with
grabbing time in an internet cafe to do our emails and weather research as our
Sat phone needs a new SIM card. Also buying a hard bottomed dinghy and outboard
that were salvaged from the French yacht which sank after hitting a reef in the
Ha'apai Islands. The owners and their friends are now back in France, the only
insurance they had was for a flight home in the event of mishap so the poor
souls lost everything but for the little that was salvaged, at least they are
safe. We now have a good one year old dinghy made of Hypalon which unlike PVC
does not denature and go sticky in the heat also a rather large horse power
outboard which will probably frighten the life out of us.
Feeling nervous and excited about the
last big passage in this part of our journey, we finally left on Sunday
31st October. With perfect reaching conditions and a 1000+ mile
passage ahead of us we knew the weather would become increasingly colder and
possibly unsettled as we ventured south west.
We were sad to leave Tonga but unlike
some of the other wonderful islands we have visited in this memorable year we
will almost certainly return next season to spend more time getting to know
these special islands and their utterly charming people.
A parting gift of local produce from