Sunday 18th July 2230 Local 0932 UTC We are 13
hours ahead of UTC ???? Maybe there is daylight saving time or something
When I last spoke with you all we were having a bit
of a torrid time, or were about to have a bit of a torrid time approaching
Tonga. We eventually had 15 all the way up to 30 knots directly from our
destination and were forced to motor into it to try and get to Tonga in time to
meet Craig, Rhiann and family friend Amy. We hit the reef lined pass at about
0500 on Thursday 15th July and despite missing marks, lights and leading
marks which were unlit and the GPS not lining us up on the chart, with
searchlights and radar and sounder we worked our way into the harbour anchorage
and I got an hour or so of sleep before getting up at 0800 to get to immigration
and meet the kids.
It was a hectic timetable and down to the wire, but
by an hour or so we made it, and met up with Craig, Rhiann and Amy at about 0930
which was fantastic for us all.
Nuku Alofi is the capital of Tongatapu and I
suppose of Tonga and is is a busy town but not particularly attractive. The
people however are very friendly - even the officials from the four offices I
had to meet to clear in.
We stayed at anchor outside the town harbour to
provision and to see Niall off on his flight and to visit the hectic
Heilala Gala night in the town centre on Friday. With Amy being an expert
windsurfer and wakeboarder we were all quickly up on the wakeboard blasting
round the bay which was great craic! We managed to get Niall up and running
before he left and he was chuffed with that.
On Saturday afternoon we moved across to Fafa
Island to anchor on the North side having spent the day before at Pangaimotu
which is an island in the bay of Nuku Alofi owned by the king of Tonga.
Fafa would be our staging post to set off north this morning - Sunday. Tonga is
very religious and generally it is not acceptable to be doing anything on a
Sunday (more about the culture in a later blog), so we wanted to leave
discretely to travel north, which in any event is fine for visitors to
The plan was to sail out of the reefs to the
deeper water at the 500m mark and travel north east up that to a tight
anchorage at Kelefesia. The reason for moving to the deeper water was to see if
we could see a whale. It is the season in Tonga for the Humpback whales to visit
for breeding and calfing and it has just started. We had already seen a few in
Niue so were hoping to see more in Tonga. Boy - were we ever in for a
We barely crossed the 500m contour when I spotted
some whales breaching about 1km to port. Then shortly after, multiple breaches,
spy hops and tailfin showings dead ahead. Then time after time we came through -
at close quarters huge humpbacks breaching - full blown breaching, all around
I can still hardly believe what we witnessed today
I cannot even tell you how many whales were performing all around us. Not just
in the deep water, eventually all the way into 50 - 70 meteres deep. Our passage
today should have been 4 - 5 hours but eventually took eight with all the
captivating distractions of the whales performing. Oh what a wondrous humbling
sight and experience. I have seen plenty whales before - but this - no nothing
like this. It was mind blowing - almost surreal.
On top of this we caught three Little Tunny, one of
4 pounds which gave four lovely fillets. One small one was stripped ragged by a
big bill fish right off the back of the boat at about a metre below the surface!
You may think I am making all this up but now we have photos to prove
To please the girls aboard we had a visit or
two from the dolphins. They were the smallest we have seen yet - probably only
about 12 good steaks in each ....... Maybe they just looked small, relative the
giants performing all around us.
As the day wore on we were contacted by a boat in
the already tight Kelefesia anchorage to say it was jammed with 4 boats. That
was fine, I had a plan B - to investigate what looked like a decent potential
anchorage on the chart. So still high on whale encounters we trundled
past Kelefesia, reputed to be one of the most beautiful anchorages in
Tonga, and set course for our own wilderness anchorage.
With eyeball navigation and avoiding the remaining
reef from a missing island we edged up to the reef's edge off a deserted island
and anchored up. We quickly launched the dingy and all set off for shore with
spear guns and snorkelling gear. The coral was great as were the small fish -
but none as nice as the 8 pound grouper I shot for dinner!!
He was BBQ'd by 1900 - and very delicious too. Now
if it is not asking for too much, and it may very well be, we are hoping for
some coconuts tomorrow to make some ceviche (raw fish marinaded in lime juice
with coconut milk) from today's tunny.