Tonga and onwards to Fiji

Brian Bonniwell and Claudine
Wed 27 Jul 2016 13:06

 18 40.0S 174 03.0W


Mushroom shaped Islands with lush undergrowth greeted us as we sailed into Tonga. We weaved our way through these islands towards the main town and  harbour of  Vava’u.  We had to be cleared in by customs, immigration etc.  As we anticipated this took some time, 4hrs in total!!!  We then found a mooring ball in front of the lovely ‘Mango Cafe’, which was one of four really nice bars/restaurants that had good dinghy docks.  It was a picturesque anchorage with very little swell.  We mention provisioning in this blog only because there were no supermarkets as we know them, just four Chinese stores that reminded us of small corner shops!  There was a good market with fresh produce but the place lacked a good baker and butcher.  Good job we stocked up well in Niue!

One of the days we hired a car with our friends to visit the Botanical gardens and  vanilla plantations, which were one of the main attractions in Tonga. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see either but did manage to see some of the Island and visit one of the beaches.  We also took a walk up to one of the viewing points, which gave us a spectacular view of the vast array of islands, which make up the Vava’u group.  The boys hired a truck, which looked very dilapidated and they had a discount because it did not have a reverse gear!!!!  Both vehicles came without insurance so we crossed our fingers that we were to have incident free journeys!!

Traditional Tongan clay tea shirts were a must so we dutifully took our Wishanger II motif and had some printed.  They were not ready for a couple of days,  which meant we could leave this anchorage and visit Port Maurelle, a beautiful bay around the corner with excellent swimming and snorkelling.  As predicted the wind increased over the weekend but we were very sheltered tucked into this bay and the boys were delighted that the wind had increased as it meant they were able to go kite surfing between the islands.

Our friends, Roger and Judy were arriving from Scotland the following day so we went back to the main anchorage and arranged to meet them at the ‘Mango Cafe Unfortunately their flight had been delayed and unknown to any of us there were no taxi’s at the airport due to it being a public holiday.  They arrived a little late in a pick up truck!  Very kindly one of the airport staff took pity on them and brought them.

It was great meeting up with them and we set about making plans on what to see on the island and where next to visit.  The WARC dinner and prizegiving was the following night and it gave Roger and Judy a good opportunity to meet everyone in the fleet.  It was also great for us to all wear our Tongan tea shirt.  What a night of prizes.  We won one for coming third in the leg from Tahiti to Tonga and the boys had prizes for being the most helpful in the fleet, with certificates and tea shirts - so a lot to celebrate !!  Even Brian was dancing to the early hours!!!! There were other great dancing evenings in Tonga but we think that was the best.  During the Tongan rendezvous dinners there were displays of traditional dancing, which unlike the fast paced Polynesian dancing, was gentle and sensual.  The girls oiled their bodies so that the audience could place bank notes on their arms as a sign of their appreciation.

Whilst we were undergoing the clearing out procedures, Roger and Judy went to the botanical gardens and vanilla farm and they were able to tell us all about what we had previously missed.  We also provisioned and re-fuelled ready for our trip to Fiji.

Now cleared out we visited two more anchorages before leaving, as the weather was inclement and although we had by then technically cleared out, the Tongan authority gave permission for the WARC fleet to stay in Tongan waters until the weather improved.  This gave us the opportunity to show Roger and Judy the “Swift cave”, a large cave into which you could dinghy and snorkel.  It had a hole in the roof through which a beam of light shone into the depths of the enclosed water, giving a fabulous view of the underwater crevices and marine creatures below.  Quite spectacular!

Our final venue in Tonga was the most unusual of all.  Setting off early we visited Lisa Beach for lunch and snorkelled in the afternoon.  That evening we experienced the most bizarre meal we have ever had.  In amongst the array of islands was a Spanish restaurant called ‘La Paella’ – set alone in an incline, above a remote beach.  It was still windy so anchoring was not easy but eventually we succeeded and hitched a difficult ride to the beach in our friend’s fast dinghy where we picked up a mooring ball before making the final assault ashore in our light inflatable which we could carry clear of the water.  There were 12 of us so it took a while and the sea was rough so yet more wet bottoms!!

The restaurant was most unusual to say the least, a wooden shack in which tables surrounded a kitchen galley with an open fire ‘stove’.  Very surprisingly, despite the restaurant’s remoteness, we had been able to book by email!  Our table was laid as booked and all looked ready for an interesting meal.  Three people, the wife, husband and son, did everything!  We were most surprised to see the goat, which had met us as we climbed the incline to the restaurant, lying on the floor and being treated like a pet dog, very friendly and hopefully housetrained!  We then sat down to a set menu of the most wonderful gourmet food - successive courses of mouth-watering tapas appetisers.  All made and presented to perfection and then followed by the main course of paella.  Finally and to our amazement, there was a delicious chocolate pudding!

To finish the evening the three family members went up to a small raised stage and played Spanish music - it was unreal!!  The night ended with yet another wet trip back to the boat but it was well worthwhile!


The following day we set off for Fiji, a 2-3 day sail.  The weather gribs showed we were to expect winds of around 20-25 knots, so a fast sail was anticipated.  How wrong those gribs turned out to be!  Sam caught a large Tuna as we left the calm waters of the islands, which meant about an hours preparation in the galley.  Normally no problem but the wind was increasing and out of the shelter of the islands the seas had started to build.  It turned out to be a very uncomfortable task!  That night we experienced torrential rain, large swells and squalls with winds of up to 45knots.  The boys had a dangerous task taking down the mainsail in the most difficult of seas with Brian at the helm, blinded by the rain whilst trying to keep the boat heading into wind. Not pleasant and we were all relieved when the task was safely completed.  Another reminder  - when you think "reef", do "reef", and dont delay! The next day it calmed down slightly, even though it continued to rain.  The second night was much better, the seas( and sickness!) had subsided and we were fit and well to witness at first daylight, the approaching small island peaks and eventually the ominous reefs surrounding our new venue – the Fijian Lau Group of islands.




JPEG image

JPEG image

JPEG image