Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Kingdom of Tonga – Haʻapai

Ha’apai is much like Vava’u only much more remote.  The villages here are farther apart with fewer villagers and many of the atolls are uninhabited.  We continued to see humpback whales and took more pictures.  It is hard to explain how thrilling it is to see these magnificent creatures erupting from the water and broaching as we cruise by.


We drifted around the islands and anchored in each spot for a couple of days.  We were careful to move during the mid-day since we had to pick our way in between the reefs.  Since many of the charts are old and the coral continues to grow, our eyes became much more important than our sophisticated instrumentation.  In only the 8 days that we were cruising here, two cruising boats ended up on the reefs.  The boat was completely lost (sunk) in one case and in the other case, the boat was pulled off the reef by other cruisers with minor hull damage.  The winds were mostly light but they would change direction and increase quickly as rain squalls came through every 3 or 4 days.  One minute, we would be anchored behind a white sandy beach with 5 knots of wind blowing directly off the beach. The sky would darken, and our transom would be pointing directly at the same beach and our anchor would be straining to hold (180 degrees from how we had set it) our boat off the beach against 25 knots of wind and driving rain.  30 minutes later, the skies would clear leaving brilliant sun and full water tanks.

Interaction with the villagers was also easier since fewer boats cruise this area.  We were always welcomed and only because they wished to know where we came from and how our lives on our floating home compared to theirs.  We went to church on Sundays where we could find one along a dirt path.  In Ha’afeva, we met a lovely couple who invited us to attend their church service and also share lunch with them.  After church, they brought big platters of taro, cassava, sweet potatoes, lamb, chicken, corned beef, and even hot dogs for us and 2 other boat crews.  They wanted no money, but we brought stuffed animals and puzzles for their two children, and a few small items for the parents.   During lunch we found out that they had gotten up a 3AM to build a fire and set the food in an umu (ground oven) to cook during church.  When is the last time you woke up at 3AM and cooked dinner for 8 strangers that you had just met?
Every village had pigs roaming free and somehow they all knew which ones were theirs and which were owned by others.  The water was crystal clear and we had squid and turtles swimming around the boat.  We saw several sea snakes and one day one slithered right up into the dingy.  This small guy ended up in a jar and passed around to the kid boats for close inspection before being released unharmed (far away from our boat).  Most of these snakes are poisonous but their mouths are so small that they can only bite ear lobes and small fingers and such. 
We had to keep moving south though and looked for a calm period to move the 60 miles further south to Tongatapu.  This is the group where we will fuel up and look closely for a weather window to make the 7-day, 1100 mile trip to New Zealand.  Come along, Dear reader.  This is historically a rough ride.

Posted by SSB


Radar, Melonie, and Bob Taylor said...

Great Pics!!
Appears you guys are still having a blast. Hope to cross paths someday and hear your tales.
Stay safe.
Crew Istaboa

Anonymous said...

Looks like you are having a lot of fun. It is starting to get cold here and the leaves are falling. Enjoyed the video of the caves.

Susan Ben and Jeff