Contrast for the worst

Salsa af Stavsnas
Ellinor Ristoff Staffan Ehde
Tue 12 Aug 2014 06:50
I think it never appeared to me before, with this clarity; the contrast between us, the privilidged from wealthy countries and the poor that have to take care of the mess after a disaster.They have no insurance, no backup.
First, don't get me wrong, it is not about pity, the people we met yesterday in the village of Faleloa are proud and they all greeted us with big smiles and nobody asked for anything. Absolutely nothing.
They all went about trying to bring up some food on the small pieces of land, cultivated and protected with fences made of rusty corrugated iron.
But the devastation is absolutely non graspable, all houses but a few have been damaged, their roofs are gone and the inhabitans are trying to protect themselfes with old tarpaulins or they sleep in tents just close to the house. Trees that must weight 15 tons have been moved with roots and everything. Try to imagine people trying to make everything orderly in this mess. Some houses are simply gone, you can only see a concrete platform and a toilet seat, that's all. Everything is just ripped away and thrown somewhere else. And as you stand in this mess you can look out over the bay and see this beautiful water with a beach that is just covered by giant trees laying almost upside down.
I had the camera with me but it felt just to much to walk and take pictures of the disaster.
I have taken some pictures in Lifuka but that is far from what we saw here.
And here comes the part that is so crazy, so sick in a way.
We can just take our dinghy, leave the mess and climb on board. Take a shower and start the popcorn machine...
Sounds like a bad story, I know, but it is the truth.
After dinner we had the generator on for the first time since we came to Tonga, we have had plenty of power from the wind, but we needed a top up and decided to try the new pop corn machine.
We got it as a gift from Craig before leaving NZ, and it is a dream of course, to be able to make popcorn with just hot air. It is a small machine mind you, not one of this red carts you can see at the cinemas.
And of course we cannot pretend to be anything else then we are, we are spoiled kids playing around the waters of the world.
We should have left our anchorage this morning and sailed to Lifuka for a check out, but the hard wind (20 knots) in mix with rain and bad visibility stopped us.
We have to make it through a passage between several coral heads and it did not feel right to leave with highest tide (yes it is king tide, the moon is very close to earth now), if we would run aground it would leave us with water getting lower til 2 pm this afternoon.
Now we are hoping to leave after 2 pm with a rising tide and a better visibility.
Now I continue to write this blog after we left the anchorage about 9 this morning. The sun came out and Ellinor thought it would be smart
to get out. And since I was nervous we might as well get it over with.
With 20 knots of winds behind us leaving the anchorage there was no room for misstakes.
There is a trick to make it as safe as possible, when the anchor is up Ellinor stays on the bow with polarizing glasses on and a handheld VHF.
With strong winds it is very hard to hear somebody shouting especially if that person keeps her eyes on the water in front of us. The other trick is to follow your track on the plotter, that will give you the best way out since it it is your way in. Now, when we enter a place like this I use our Raymarine plotter with one set of charts and the iPad is fastened by the steering wheel giving me another chart. It might seem stupid but the information on the charts can be very different and it is good to have redundancy. Well untill today, as I was following the track I watched both screens and noticed they had different opinions on where the boat was compared to the track. That makes it useless because in a lagoon whats chartered there could be done by Andreas. What's marked with rocks and corals can be from 1893 and then just copied onto the digital world. So you can forget what the chart is showing, you just want the track. Well I decided to follow the iPad since it was closer to me, I had to make a choice and as we approached the most critical part, just before getting out of the lagoon, something did not look right, Ellinor started to warn me about coral patches in front of us and the next question was if I followed the track we would get in between the first two but it looked like there was a labirynt after that one, I turned around and made an extra turn on the spot before the mess in front of us, there is no way you dare to stand still and think, the wind is pushing you and can make things worse (well you can power backwards but then the tidal current can play games, a boat at stand still is a dead body).
I decided to skip the Ipad and follow the track on the Raymarine, still very nervous and with the ocean slamminng on the edges of the reefs two whales suddenly came up 10 meters from us. EXCITMENT! The kids started to jump and sceem and Ellinor was pointing at the whales.
I had to shout out that everybody had to stay calm, we had still corals everywhere! Then the depth meter dropped to 50 meters and we could relax and of course with that the wales had dived and disappeared.
After that the trip was a breeze, winds up to 24 knots did not bother me, we were free!
We made it into Lifuka and anchored outside the pier. Had lunch and I needed a nap (Ellinor always takes one).
After that we took the dinghy ashore to check out and I got some good information about whats happening on the islands that were hit by the hurricane. A ship was unloading new concrete grounds and 300 new houses in kits to be raised in Faleloa, where we were yesterday.
The world bank, UNICEF and the European Union is helping the islands to be restored.
Today we could also buy lovely tomatoes and carrots. The women selling them told us the agriculture is slowly but surely getting back to normal.
I spoke to the goverment officer here in Haapai and he told me that this hurricane hit so badly because the eye of the hurricane came over the islands. That means they first got hit from east (a hurricane makes a revolving turn ariund a center of calm), a lot of buildings survived because they build all their houses on the most protected side, west. Then came the calm, the center of the hurricane, and then they got hit from the west.
Even the churches that ususally provide shelter were destryoyed (all but the 7th adventist, because they built a low building).
We have learned that being in a hurricane is like being just behind the jet engines of a 747 as it puts the engines at full trottle. Even the sound is just the same.