The Kingdom of Tonga. ....... December 2014.
G'day from the Kingdom of Tonga. I write this whilst sitting on the stern of the newly painted Providence watching the sun go down with a cold beer in hand on the island of Tongatapu in the south. Sounds nice hey? Well it is... ;)
It has been six weeks now in Tonga and it has just been lovely. This sparsely inhabited archipelago has been a perfect final hurrah for the Pacific and we have been very fortunate that we have had the time to see much of it before the yacht is put to bed on a mooring for the cyclone season.
The original plan was to go to Fiji and store the yacht there for the cyclone season and return next year. Fiji fell through but we have found some excellent moorings in northern Tonga that will do just nicely for what we want... and cheaper as well I may add! With the mooring booked and sorted earlier than expected and still some time left in the cruising season we were fortunate to have been able to see a lot more of Tonga than originally planned. The pace through the Pacific wasn’t exactly hectic but we had been keeping a good and steady pace heading west so it was a great feeling to slow down a tad and just see as what we could see. And it is has been great.
In the first week we said goodbye to Aldo who continued his trek to New Zealand and several yachts we have become friends with through the Pacific who were heading to NZ as well. This left just Didi and I on the yacht for a few weeks exploring the northern (the Vavau's), central (the Ha'apai's) and the southern (Tongatapu) island groups before meeting Matt's brother Adam and his girlfriend Andrea in Tongatapu for a few weeks holiday of their own. The Vavau's are the cruising capital on Tonga with hundreds of anchorages, beaches, resorts, diving, snorkeling and when in season some of the best whale watching in the world. Unfortunately we arrived in Tonga in the off season for whales as they have all headed south. The Ha'apai's are less populated, less popular with regards to tourists and less built up. For this reason alone this is my favorite of the three groups with the isolated anchorages, less people and fantastic kitesurfing. As well as the above Didi and I got stuck into giving the yacht some TLC with rust work and painting that she was well overdue after the long Pacific sailing.
Adam and Andrea spent two weeks on the yacht in November and the four of us went sailing north again through the Tongatapu islands and the southern Ha'apai's to give a taste on what this sailing has been all about for me in the last three years. The beaches, coral, snorkeling, surfing and picturesque islands we visited were magic and I think I achieved in giving them that taste and a great little time on board. Even though what I maybe should have done is put them to work for a few days doing some painting, scrubbing, maintaining and general cursing and swearing at the yacht that is the other not so documented side of owning a yacht.... maybe..... ;)
No sooner had they arrived then they had gone back to Aus and the real world... and Didi and I once again had the yacht to ourselves. We remained in the southern group for the rest of November continuing the work on the yacht. It was also a great social time in this few weeks with many yachts using Tongatapu as the preparation area for heading to NZ. There was maybe forty yachts anchored outside 'Big Mamas, (a beach and yachtie bar at the anchorage.... Great place to hang out and damage the liver.... ) and we had one way or the other met most of them at some point this year. It was a crazy week of partying before the weather window opened up and on mass the fleet set sail south for Kiwi land and no cyclones. There were a few late departures and a few yachts like ourselves who were braving the cyclone season and staying here which still kept the festive atmosphere alive despite the lack of numbers. For those yachts we have got to know over the year who have left for NZ... you know who you are... Good luck with it all and see you next time.
It was not long before Did herself had to leave Tonga and return to Italy to spend Christmas with the family. For obvious reasons I was very sad to see her go.... and the fact there was still a lot of painting yet to to hahaha... (mmm.. could get into a little trouble for that one!! ;) )....... But it is a comfort that we will be seeing each other soon in 2015.
Now it's just me on the yacht doing the last of the work required before I sail her north to the mooring before I too fly home for Christmas with the family. I may have a guy who will help me sail north but we shall see, and I will tell more on my next and possible final entry for the year on the blog very soon.
Until then..... cheers from Matt and said glass of cold beer....
Photos to follow....