Our sail from American Samoa to Tonga was CRAZY!!!!!
We set sail on September 4th and planned on an average speed of 5 knots therefore, a 320 nautical miles passage should of taken us about 64 hours, 2.5 days, arriving on September 8th local Tongan time, my birthday (we passed the international date line and lost a day). However, we experienced heavy winds, lots of squalls, and a point of sail that made things a bit uncomfortable. We made the passage in about 50 hours, which meant we averaged a boat speed of 6.4 knots. This means for Slow Flight, our rails were in the water constantly when winds were sustained at 20-25 knots. To boot…we thought we were leaking our fresh water we had made a day ago and the water pump broken and we basically ran out of water. We broke out our “emergency” bottled water to drink, thank goodness. The “ride” was so rough we didn’t cook, also because we didn’t have water so we ate crackers, granola bars, chips, and nuts for a 24 hour period! Not good planning on our part, both at predicting weather and prepping food beforehand (we got lazy and maybe a bit too confident?!). The passage was probably the worst thus far…..but at least it was a fast passage! The water issue ended up to be that we hadn’t switched the water pump to the other water tank…silly us!
Checking in to Tonga– We arrived in the Vava’u island group on September 7th (local time) just before sundown….cutting it close, we generally time our arrivals to a new port during the daylight hours since it’s a new place for us and in daylight you can see hazards underwater. This time, and luckily, the main town of Neiafu have a series of moorings so we came in and tied off to mooring ball and waited to check into the country in the morning.
Landfall and the islands-Tonga was not what we expected geologically speaking…. Maybe I didn’t do enough research but we were surprised to see all the little islands flat, like they got a buzz cut. No mountains to speak of but the islands were “carved” out from below from the tide and waves. There were plenty of reefs around and we had to traverse through “passes” of coral but there was plenty of room to actually sail to one island to another. One other note was the temperature….we were a bit farther south than American Samoa, Cook Islands, and French Polynesia which meant we had cooler temperatures! It actually got cold enough for us to sleep with a light blanket over us.
Town of Neiafu, Vava’u, Tonga– First of all, town was also a surprise to us…. it was more developed than I had imagined! For some reason, I thought the town would be extremely poor, with little amenities, and provisioning and internet would be almost nil…..boy was I wrong! Lots of stores, though each store had something a little different than the other so you had to go to each one to make sure you weren’t missing out on something cool. Local market held 6 days a week for fresh veggies. Bakery with fresh bread for $1 usd. Internet was super fast and we actually could get cell reception and internet in all of the anchorages we went to (hench why some of you got FB messages from us). Espresso and coffee shops selling organic foods, recycling bins, and laundry facilities for about $7 a load (wash, dry in a dryer, and fold)…..not bad. Lots of restaurants and there was an established VHF net every morning for local announcements and specials to be announced throughout the island group. Even small islands hosting a traditional Umu (a style of cooking in an underground pit) would advertise their specials on the net.
Anchorage # 8 – SV Terrapin joined us a few days later and we traveled with them as well with SV Me Too all around the island group.
A Walk to Barnacle Beach-
Swallows Cave- While at Anchorage # 8, we set out in our dinghys to see Swallows cave.
Anchorage # 25 and #36– We took day trips to other islands…
Anchorage # 16 – The wind was supposed to pick up and we wanted to find a nice protected anchorage. We found ourselves at this gem where David and his family lived. His family has owned this island for about 6 generations. Trevor thought he heard that David’s wife was the sister of the King of Tonga….hard to fact check this but it makes for a good story.
Snorkeling– Unfortunately the coral inside the anchorage was not very healthy but we still got to see some cool and NEW stuff!
David and his family– It is customary to ask before traipsing on land for permission to do so as all the land is privately owned. Hence why we met David and his family. He sometime puts on a traditional Umu style feast, cooking in an underground pit, but tonight we thought we would try kava for the first time. Trevor, Clay and David dinghy over to another island close by to purchase ground up kava root and David said he would prepare it for us. He also offered us fresh coconut water. We spent most of the night on the beach with him and his family while other cruisers joined us and we all chatted it up. A great night had by all!
Anchorage # 9 – We (SV Me Too and SV Terrapin) anchored here just for the day to specifically dive the famous Mariners Cave. Mariners cave is an underwater cave, meaning you have to dive underneath the water and resurface in the cave. We had read about it but there was still some anxiety about how long the free dive would be. Trevor, Jill, and Phil suited up in scuba dive gear while the rest of us free dived.We weren’t sure of the cave entrance either but luckily found other boats diving it too. Again, it was important to dive this cave at 3pm so that you were able to see the cave entrance as the sunlight would assist in getting in and out. With little expectations, this cave was AMAZING! Besides that fact that when you surfaced inside the cave, clearing your ears felt funny due to the fact that the air had little spaces to go since we were surrounded by water and rock.
Back into town– After diving Mariners Cave we all headed back to the town of Neiafu. We had heard of a great show at the Bounty Bar in town…special on Wednesday..a drag show! We had to check it out. We did our last provisioning for our passage then left on September 22nd for Fiji.
But the whales!!!! – To make a long story short…. I particularly wanted to swim with whales. We thought we would do this in Nuie but we never made it there due to the fact we decided to go to American Samoa instead and Nuie was far to south for us. I had no idea the whales also migrated and birthed near Tonga so you can imagine my delight! Without criminalizing ourselves…..a few of us got the opportunity to swim with a mother nursing her calf. Of course my Go Pro camera died on me (of course!) but i got this one shot of them leaving us. This photo does not give the experience justice by any stretch of the imagination but it’s all I can share with you for now. Truly a memory I will never forget, fleeting as it may of been, a dream come true! Most photos are taken from a video courtesy of Jill and Briley on SV Me Too…thank you for capturing this moment.
We are currently in Fiji getting some boat work done (it’s never done) and we had a crew member (Mayo Yamaguchi) for the passage from Tonga to Fiji…our first time having crew aboard…she has been fantastic! Next post soon..I hope!