Lingering longer in Tonga

Sat 15 Oct 2016 19:27

We linger longer in Tonga

To spend a day aboard and complete some homework for Clare, the journalist I met at the Hosea School dancing performance, write a few letters and continue with a blog was a real luxury and in the evening we joined Tony and Gail, Christina and Werner aboard Cetacea for the feast. Christina and I contributed dishes of various salads and Gail had coated small fillets of the dog-tooth tuna in sesame seeds and crushed black pepper and flash fried them. They were so tender and delicious and we had yet another evening of fun and friendship together.

So far the news on Dean in Sea Oak is that he made his escape to American Samoa, 600 miles north of here possibly with the hope he could then return to the US as the States have no extradition treaty with Tonga. He was snoozing on his boat when the American Customs arrested him for a customs violation, but they cannot charge him with murder and have to find some way of returning him to Tonga otherwise he could walk free.

Domestics – not the human conflict kind though.

Recently I have been putting photo blogs onto the site with written captions on them, however when I checked them the other day I found the captions have not stayed on the photos so I just hope the blog explains the photos and I apologise for the omission.

One of the Blue Water Rally events was an informal race in which 12 cruising yachts took part. We watched the first part from Zoonie’s decks and it will explain the photos of yachts moving through the mooring field. The start was from the dinghy pontoon where crew leaped back into their inflatables and sped to their waiting yachts which then released their mooring lines and motored out of the field to the start line, made up of the invisible line between the green buoy and the shore.

It was fun watching otherwise sedately driven boats spin backwards from their buoys leaving curves of smooth water while their crew hoisted sails and coiled the lines. One yacht clearly had not been as fast for a while as its stern disappeared in a cloud of exhaust smoke, we awaited the bang that fortunately never came.

They disappeared out of the lagoon en masse for a few hours to weave through the islands, circumnavigate a particular one and return in well spread dribs and drabs the winner to receive a blast from a fog horn.

I have recently had some more culinary successes and a first. My second banana loaf was even better than the first, I report this more as a matter of surprise than conceit.

While back in the UK before we set off we visited a health food shop in Poole, The Grape Tree. It is one of a growing chain throughout the UK and the shelves are full with nuts, dried fruits, chocolate, cereals etc., you know the sort of place. They also sold yoghurt making kits using packets of the milk powder, live bios and flavouring. A plastic container and a kind of thermos were also included. Well I didn’t buy the thermos thinking my thermal cooker would do the same job, working on the same principle of retaining heat through vacuum insulation.

I hadn’t used them up till now, but as there has been no yoghurt available in either Niue or here I thought the time had come. Ironically the kit and packets are all manufactured in New Zealand!

So, I mixed the powder with our tank water in the ‘yog pot’ set it in the thermal cooker and poured in boiling water till it was half way up the pot. Closed the top and hoped for a successful yog after 12 hours.

The next morning I slid off the bed in anticipation only to find the mix was still liquid. Oh well never mind I thought, I’ll come back and deal with that later. Well when I did return a few hours later it was to find a perfect yog, nicely set and smooth, so I popped the pot straight in the fridge and congratulated the thermal cooker on its fine efforts.

We have discovered that snapper is a very fleshy and tasty fish, so one of those, bought at the market and filleted on Zoonie’s stern deck, went into a curry that lasted three days!

Rob has also had some on board successes bless him. He has wrestled with various dongles, contents of memory sticks and downloads and managed to set up our open CPN charts with Google earth overlays. We discovered though, that as soon as we zoom in to see a coastline in more detail the definition on the Google overlay loses its sharp focus, just when we need it. So sometimes the diagrams, like paper charts, are better to use.

As we have been here a while now and there is such a strong social connection between the expat business people here and the cruisers we have really got to know lots of folk including some Tongans. Every morning on VHF Channel 26 there is a cruisers radio net run each day of the week by a different business person ashore. Barry runs Hunga Haven, a lagoon restaurant/café with mooring buoys just two hours away where we have booked a mooring from tomorrow evening after we have cleared out with customs. Barry runs the net on a Monday.

Sandy runs the Tuesday net and Vavau Adventures from where one can hire buggies and we hired our scooter. She was recently in a compromising situation when the sailing boat Slow Ride that she was aboard, lost its forestay while on passage to American Samoa for a holiday in appalling weather conditions. They kept in radio contact as their drama unfolded and we listened in. Eventually we saw them returning slowly towards the wharf, sails flapping wildly, to throw lines ashore where willing hands were waiting.

The net is slick and professional and enables cruisers to buy or exchange items, take on new crew and the local businesses to advertise themselves. A few Tongans take part, mostly women with cafes or a massage salon, a tshirt screen printing shop or a seamstress who runs ‘Seems to me’ and can make clothes and repair sails. One Tongan man, Primrose, reports on market produce in the big well stocked co-operative market full with local produce.

Networking is the right term for it and it works very well. Our friend Kim in Philiosophy has been trying for three weeks to sell his 110w heavy duty sewing machine with all metal parts. Every day now we can recite his spiel with him from memory and pray this will be his lucky day. He only wants $200 or a really good folding bike in exchange, come on, what’s the matter with you guys! Just a pity its not 240w or we’d have it.

Its really satisfying too that I have been able to use my ‘wordy’ skills to help provide Clare with details of places we have been to so she can update her Superyacht Services Guide over a number of meetings and a firm friendship has developed between the three of us. We look forward to spending more time with her in NZ.

Also our friend Gail is a Consultant Environmentalist and is writing a White Paper on Safe Waste Disposal for Cruising Yachtsmen. I have proof read the document and added ideas and possible sources to it for her research as my contribution.

I had also planned to do a write up of the Blue Water Festival for the yachting press but it sounds as if someone else may be doing that, I’ll have to find out.

Its just nice to be useful!

We have also been thinking about shopping around looking at different insurance companies for Zoonie. Our present one is expensive, having increased our premiums the further we go from Europe until from Bahia we have been paying over £300 per MONTH. Naturally a new company will need a copy of a survey done in the last five years. Well our purchase survey was completed in October 2011 so it is borderline out of date and we don’t have it onboard anyway.

Our comment email to our existing company, explaining we are having a look around, brought a very acceptable reply. From the moment we arrive in NZ the policy reverts to a 50 mile offshore one and reduces to £700 per YEAR while we are in NZ. That’s better! I am sure in the back of my mind I asked them this before without the same reply. Also, comparing their cover to another company we found ours covers just about everything, including wear and tear and Hurricanes and Cyclones. So we’ll laissez faire that one for now.

Awash in Neiafu, Vavau.

We knew the rain was coming and were very glad that unlike Sandy and her crew on Slow Ride, we were safely moored. Rob and I have not experienced a thunder storm like it for many years, in fact we cannot remember the last time. For the whole day lightening raged around us and thunder shattered the air just like in the Amazon but without the disgruntled howler monkeys.

Sitting down below our world had suddenly become much smaller. Bordered by walls of lashing rainwater Zoonie’s cabin was our safe little cocoon.

For hours we could not see beyond Zoonie into the solid wall of rain that persisted down. The locals will be loving this, we thought, filling their empty rain water tanks. Then we thought, our tanks are half full too, we should be out there. On VHF Channel 26 others were gathering water on board, strings from dripping canopies into buckets which soon filled up.

Rob always keeps the tender nice and clean, I thought, and a quick look confirmed it was half full with pure rainwater. The rain eased a little, so we took our chance. Zoonie’s is not the tallest mast in the field and Rob would be on a wooden deck and with me in the non-conductive tender we should be safe enough.

Clad in swimwear and relishing the warm rain washing the sweat from our skin, I passed bailer loads of water into one of our two white plastic buckets while Rob emptied the other into the tanks. The rain started thundering down again so we debunked to the cabin until it eased when we were able to empty another half-filled tender load into the tanks. One tank filled completely and we were just short of full in the other; that is 100 gallons of pure rainwater, perfect!

The rainwater was so penetrating it took the loose varnish off the companionway steps, saving us a scraping job. The power went off in town, the canopy over the tables and chairs at the Aquarium Bar collapsed, the water up to thirty feet from the shore turned brown, the dogs had 12 hours of barking to catch up on and boy did they.

The cicadas missed their usual 6.46pm to 7.08pm slot and the accumulation of mosquito eggs that had been waiting for some rain to hatch promptly did so and plagued the entire population to a night if buzzing, biting hell. We killed eight in the aft cabin during the night. Rob would swot them as they flew to his side of the bed and I would deal with those on mine. No one got much sleep.

But the sunset, oh the sunset was beautiful. Bright fuschia not just in the distance but all around us it seemed as the storm finally moved away. And everyone had full tanks of water!

The next morning we went to the Bella Vista Café for a beer and our waitress was one of the Laidies from the Wednesday night performance at The Bounty Bar. I thanked her for her lovely ‘coy’ performance. One of the other favoured a little belly dancing, a third was a Parisian Model on her catwalk, her steps marking a single line in her white tights and pink platform shoes, the fourth was the genial hostess and the fifth was just plain ‘overt’!

“You know I find it really hard, all the getting ready, having to find everything to wear around the house and then the performance is demanding and we have such a cramped offstage area.” The backstage measures the width of the room by about one metre but at least its open to the outside night air.

At another table Haniteli of the Botanic Garden’s wife sat with a friend. I mentioned to her the name of the only plant Haniteli could not identify. “When we were there Rob and I said in Unison, it’s a berberis, could you tell Haniteli for us please,” I said handing her a slip of paper with the name written on it. Another box ticked, I thought, in the count down before leaving.

The view over the lagoon from this Café is as good as from the Basque Bar and we noticed the return of the fuel ship, so there was no doubt about filling Zoonie’s tanks, this time with fuel, the next day when were due for our lift out into the boatyard.