Vava'u 18:41.60S 174:01.60W and Nukualofa 21:08.00S 178:12.00W
Alan Franklin/Lynne Gane
Fri 9 Oct 2015 18:28
7th October 2015
Can’t believe that I’ve been in and around Neiafu for 7 weeks. It’s not been continuous, having visited many anchorages , I have also found time to go down to the island Ha’afeva in the Ha’apai group of islands with some local guys on an overnight stopover. The seclusion is lovely, scenery, sea and Jenny the only boat in sight. Villagers were very welcoming especially if you like bananas!
The Blue water festival has also been on for 2 weeks - we raced Jenny to an anchorage 10 miles away to a BBQ beach and had a great beach party. Lynne is madly jealous!
The kingdom of Tonga consists of several groups of Islands, The Niu group, the Vava’u, the Ha’apai, the tongaputapu, lined up in a general nor-nor east to sou-south west direction - each group different.
The Niu group to the north are sparsely populated and generally low lying with fringing reefs, Vava’u group of many islands and islets, are somewhat higher and more imposing and happily for a single handed sailor no reef surrounding the main island. This a favourite cruising area - Sunsail are here, with many creeks and anchorages to explore.
The Hapa’ai group of islands are widely spread, none of them more than 10 meters above sea level, many are uninhabited and totally unspoilt - not that any of the Kingdom of Tonga could be considered spoilt. I was here 7 years ago in Neiafu and cannot detect any change even the immigration officer remembered me but Tonga is a poor country overall.
I have to say that much time has been spent sorting crew in Neiafu where there are (sometimes) decent internet comms. The OCC Port officer Greg has also been very helpful to everyone with ever present paperwork but nothing in comparison to New Zealand bureaucracy - heaven help us!!!! More bio regulations, the hull has to be scraped clean again in Ha’afeva in preparation for Jenny’s entry into New Zealand waters, importing fan worm is apparently the problem - although they already have it in Auckland!?!?!!
Tomorrow I leave for the Tongatapu group, for the capital Nuku’Alofa 180 miles away where the Royal Palace and seat of government reside. I am told its a bit more commercial however I haven’t been there and like to make my own judgement. I am picking up 2 extra crew, who will assist me getting the boat to New Zealand 1200 miles away. I’m a day late for the pick up as the weather has not been particularly kind, 30+ knots in the anchorage last night, but decreasing a little tomorrow - no need to ask wind direction - on the nose.
Its been said that this year has been one of the worst “El Nino” year’s on record - major dips in water temperature in places with excessive high temperatures elsewhere severely affecting weather and the Pacific convergence zone variances - no more on that but suffice to say that they have had cyclones out of season in the Coral Sea (N Australia way), and are now saying the cyclone season may start a month earlier - the end of October rather than end of November. There are many boats ,myself included, studying the weather for a suitable time to remove ourselves from the cyclone zone that we’re in!
I’ll try more pictures but I have to say the camera just cannot do justice the stunning scenery and the amazing colour of the water, from cobalt blue to turquoise depending on depth - its uncanny looking at your anchor sitting on the sea-bed in 40ft. of water! Just wish I could have seen some more whales, they seem in short supply. Whale watching is the prime occupation here, sometimes they’re only 20 feet away. I have obtained wetsuit for Lynne so she has no qualms getting in the water with them in due course, despite her protests that she sinks, this is now impossible with 7mm neoprene foam buoyancy!
All for now, Alan