On Saturday we left Neiafu and sailed out of the harbor headed south for Port Maurelle. This anchorage would provide good protection for the southeast winds that were forecast. Port Maurelle was another very nice anchorage; however, the winds and rain kept us on the boat. Scarlette O'Hara was anchored there when we arrived so we talked to them about leaving for Ha'apai the next morning. They were leaving then as well, so we decided to go together. Renee and John invited us to dinner on Sunday night, and we had delicious spaghetti, coleslaw, and garlic bread with cake for dessert. We left around 8 o'clock because we planned to get up at 4:30 the next morning.
The forecast on Monday was for winds around 20 knots and seas up to 16 feet. These conditions were not good, but we all felt that we needed to get going because there were quite a few boats planning to head to Ha'apai as well. We left at 5:30 and worked our way out into the main channel in these islands. We then put up triple-reefed sails and were making good time. About 30 minutes later, we changed our point of sail in order to go around a shallow area and found ourselves beating into the wind and waves--not a good time. We then realized that this would be our same heading once we cleared the island group, which meant a very uncomfortable trip to the Ha'apai. We called Scarlette, who was behind us, on the radio and told them we did not want to continue, and they agreed. We decided to head for the "Coral Gardens" anchorage and try again tomorrow.
After getting anchored and eating some breakfast, Steve and I discussed our options. The Ha'apai group is another remote area where you have a more traditional Tonga lifestyle with more beautiful anchorages. The problem is that the group is a chain of small islands and reefs. The anchorages that are available are small and can accommodate only a few boats, plus there are very few anchorages with north or west protection from wind. We knew of six boats who were a day behind us, and those were only boats that we knew personally. That meant that there could be quite a few boats vying for anchoring space, especially in bad weather. The weather here has been unsettled since we got here, and it is certainly possible that it will continue.
After all our discussion we decided to stay in the Vava'u group until we leave for New Zealand. This area is so beautiful, and we hope that the weather will improve so that we can do more snorkeling and exploring. Leaving from here also has the advantage of giving us a better course line to New Zealand because it brings us close enough to Minerva Reef that if bad weather does hit, we can stay there until it passes. It is also much easier to clear out of Tonga from here rather than in Nuku'alofa in the southern group. We called Scarlette to tell them our decision, and they told us that they had just made the same decision themselves. We all thought that was pretty amazing. Anyway, we had them over for dinner that night and had a wonderful and relaxing evening.
On Tuesday, we headed back to Tapana. We had strong winds right on our nose and the seas were a bit choppy so it was a wet ride. It started raining just about the time that we were pulling into the anchorage, but Larry was waiting for us at the mooring ball to get us hooked up. We waited for the rain to stop before the four of us took our dinghies ashore to get a taxi into Neiafu. Of course, it started to rain again while we were in the dinghies so we were all soaked when we arrived at the beach but luckily the taxi arrived after just a few minutes.
We had to go back to Neiafu to check back into the Vava'u group. The other problem was that Gary, our crew member who was supposed to join us in Nuku'alofa, now needed to fly up to Vava'u. We took care of all the stops and paperwork to check back in and then spoke with Chathams Pacific to see about flights up from Nuku'alofa. Getting a flight would not be a major problem, so we emailed Gary and told him the plan. He told us that is was not a problem so yesterday, Steve went in and booked a flight for him.
Today the sun is out and it is a beautiful morning. We plan to stay here for a few days to relax and get started on a few things that have to be checked or repaired before we leave. We now have plenty of time to deal with the preparation for the trip south, and that will make our lives easier.
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