The Kingdom of Tonga, Vava'u

Sun 28 Sep 2014 18:33
18:39.508S 173:58.917W

Checking in here was different. You have to take your boat alongside the dock and four different officials - customs, immigration, quarantine and health, come aboard to check you out, fill in forms and take some cash. There had been a bit of an exodus from Niue when we left so there were three boats ahead of us wanting to check in: Caminante, Chara, and Rockstar, all rafted alongside each other, in size order. We thought our 30 tonnes would be unwelcome as a fourth on the end of the raft so we anchored off the dock, along with Et Viola, and waited. 

Eventually the quarantine chap, George, came out by dinghy to Et Viola and when he was done Theo brought him over to us. As usual we greeted him politely and offered refreshments: a soft drink, tea or coffee, along with some of our precious millionaire shortbread.  There was no response from the official, just silence. I asked him again what drink he'd like and after a long pause he opted for a soft drink. It seems George was waiting for some alcohol to be offered - it was 10 in the morning. Next he asked Phil if he could smoke on board, then asked if we had cigarettes that he could have. We had none, of course. As far as George was concerned the visit wasn't going well. 

We then had a radio call from Caminante saying that the customs man would come out to us, but for an extra charge. We wanted to know how much, and would it be extra for the other two officials as well. They message came back that it would be 100 Pa'anga, double the normal charge for them to come 100 yards in a dinghy, and possibly the same for the other two as well.

Meanwhile, the quarantine George was asking me what we had on board, this is not unusual so I answered as fully as I could. Do we have fresh fruit and veg: yes, some carrots, papaya, banana, tomatoes, potatoes, onions. Do we have meat: just some ham. Do we have fish: yes, we caught a Mahi Mahi the day before. Ah! In which case he wanted some. 

I went and got him a couple of fillets during which time the message got back to the customs, immigration and health. It seemed that, if we had fish, there would be no problem for us to come aboard Caminante to fill in the forms, and no extra charge, just the fish, half a 14 lb Mahi Mahi. 

We owed the quarantine chap 25 Pa'anga 30 cents, a rubbish disposal fee, and had to pay the standard 100 Pa'anga to customs so they gave me permission to come ashore, uncleared, to find an ATM to get local currency. The town is delightful: friendly smiling people in a one street town, great little bars and cafes, a range of simple shops and an extensive market with lots of craft men and women making baskets and carving wood and bone. Men and women alike wear long wrap around skirts, the men's are rather smart in charcoal grey or black, often with an over skirt made of woven bark. The men skirts are rather cool - I think Phil should get one! I was directed to the ATM and returned, but it hadn't given me anything smaller than a 20 Pa'anga note. I presented 40 Pa'anga to George. Unsurprisingly, he had no change.