Neiafu Harbour, Vava'u, Tonga 18:39:76S 173:58:09W

Zipadedoda of Dart
David H Kerr
Mon 23 Jun 2008 14:58

The trip from Rarotonga to here was without a shadow of a doubt the most unpleasant we have ever had in Zipadedoda of Dart. That said, as ever, she did look after us.  Which at the end of the day, is why we bought such a solid boat.


    What Big breaking Waves?


This was all down to what is called the Intertropical Convergence Zone. AKA the Doldrums. It is much further south than is usual for this time of year. Grey overcast skies, humid and “sticky”, with strong winds or no winds and rain. LOADS of it! In all we had this Pants weather for some 4 or 5 weeks.


The other interesting issue was that one of the Rally boats “Gaia” had engine failure on this passage. Gaia is a J109, and so is the smallest boat in the fleet. She is in fact an out and out racing boat, not  built for comfort at all! Bob the owner described the motion on the boats as being similar to a Tumble Drier!! They have no generator so without the engine they had no means of charging the batteries. This meant that they were unable to use their autopilot, so had to hand steer for three days in atrocious sea conditions. Added to which they had to switch off the fridge and to cap it all they ran out of gas for the last two days. This meant no hot food and no warm drinks. Bob and Phyllis were just amazing. WE stood by them for some three days as they battled with these big seas and increasing depravation. But whenever we spoke on the radio they were always cheerful and very positive.


Once we got within the sound that leads up to Neiafu harbour where we had flat water, we took them on tow.


  The 100metre tow line worked perfectly.


It was a challenging business. It was still blowing 20 to 25 knots, with gusts of 35 knots. We pre-rigged a towing line. (Specially bought 5 years ago for this very purpose). This consisted of a 20mm diameter 100 metres long line, with some elasticity in it. This was secured to one of the primary winches and a fixed line was attached to this, 10 metres behind the stern to form a bridal. This was also secured to a primary winch on the opposite side of the cockpit. We came along side them and managed to get a throwing line to them whilst they were still sailing under a deep reefed main sail only. Once Phyllis had this line we played out the flaked tow line to them. This was secured on Gaia by a bridal to the bow . Once secured, we towed them to windward so they could drop the mail sail. We towed them some 8 or 9 NM, then  through the narrows into the main harbour. Here we were met by Robert from Heidenskip and Alan from Jenny in their dinghies.  Once in the anchorage, they released my tow line and then manoeuvred Gaia alongside Paramour which was already attached to a mooring buoy.


The sun did come out later in the week. It was such a relief when it did!!. But, before that joyous detail is discussed at great length, its time talk about Tonga.


The full name is the Kingdom of Tonga. It is a full blown royally ruled country. The only one in The South Pacific. The people are deeply religious, with the Wesleyan Church pre-eminent, but the Catholics also have a good following. The people are conservative in their conduct so they stay well covered up. No bare flesh in public! VERY friendly, all smiles and welcoming, and they all speak English as well as the local Tongan language.  Which has place names and words that are even longer than the German language! Oh and quite unpronounceable for most Westerners. 


There are three groupings of Islands. WE are in Vava’u, which is the Northern most group, and the most attractive and with the (we are told) best sailing. So much so that the Moorings have a yacht charter base in Neiafu.  They have in fact also produced a guide and chart of the area. This is essential information for any visiting yacht, as the electronic charts are inaccurate by up to half a mile. It is most disconcerting to see your chart plotter showing that you are anchored in land!!


There is a well established yachting community here with some surprisingly good support and also several Dive companies.  The local cruisers run a VHF “Cruiser Net” on Channel 26 each morning at 0830. This provided detailed weather forecasts, information and chat forums, and is well organised and helpful to visiting yachts.  The local yacht club, which operates out of a waterfront bar, runs a race every Friday afternoon, and all comers are welcome to enter with their own yacht or to crew on other local yachts. The after race party seemed to go on for most of the night afterwards!


One of the local dive companies Beluga Diving, provides moorings as the anchorage in Neiafu is quite deep (25m+). These were made available to us at a BWR discounted rate of 10 Tongan dollars a night, which is about £3.  This is a very poor country, and basic provisions, especially those locally produced are very cheap.


The scuba diving here is excellent. I did a two tank dive on one of the days we were here. Lovely sponge gardens, soft corals and big fan corals in stunning yellow and burnt orange colours.  Simply teaming with small fish, some varieties of which I had not seen before.  Good diving, helped by the warm waters, typically 28°C even down to 30 metres, with very light currents. Well worth doing if you are ever visiting here.


The other thing that Vava’u is famous for is whale watching. From July to October is the season when the Humpback whales come here to calf and rear the youngsters. So sadly we were too early in the season to enjoy this special spectacle. But were we……………….?


Richard Bolt from BWR was on hand to help with check in procedures. In addition to Customs, Port Authority, & Immigration there was also Health Control. This was just as well because the World Arc Boats, which are now running at least one week behind program, were checking in at the same time. It all went like clock work with Richards help, including the loan of local cash to pay the various authorities until we were able to raid a local ATM.


Once we were legal. It was time to get back to the boat and just crash out. We went for a four our kip, then got up for a dinner party with Peter & Dorothy from  Neva, who were celebrating becoming Grandparents for the first time.  We  joined them on Neva for pre-diner drinks ( Champagne of course) together with Robert & Wendy from Heidenskip, then went to the Mango waterside restaurant for dinner.


  A warm welcome at the Mango Restaurant.



We had the local Lobster. They were huge and stunning. Great evening, but I spent most of it running on adrenalin. We were so tired from the passage. Once back on the boat we just crashed out again and did not get up until 1100 the next morning!


Once rested, it was time to get on with having fun……..more of which anon.