Wednesday, October 1, 2008

What a difference a day makes!

October 1, 2008--On Monday morning after the thunderstorm, we woke up to beautiful sunshine and calm seas. We immediately went about hanging out all our wet clothes, towels, etc., from the night before. After we had some breakfast we got in our dinghy and went around to the other four boats--Aries Tor, Mo Mo, Elios, and Upps--to thank them for their help and support during the night.

Next we headed for the beach on Kenutu Island where we found a trail (if you could call it that) leading over the island to the windward side. From the cliff we had a spectacular view looking down to the shore where the waves would come crashing up on the rocks. While we were there we talked to Rob and Kate from sv Aries Tor, and they told us about a blow hole on Lolo Island immediately to the south so we walked back to our dinghy and headed over to Lolo Island. Since we were at low tide, we saw a very small piece of beach where we landed the dinghy. We could clearly hear the blow hole above us, so we carefully climbed up the coral until we reached the top. From there we could look down about 10 feet into the large blow hole and wait for the waves to come rolling in. You could hear the wave enter the hole at the bottom, then there would be a loud whooshing sound, and then the water would come shooting up through the coral opening some 20 feet or so. It was really amazing to listen to and watch the power of the ocean. We were very glad that we came to see it.

We swam in the afternoon to cool off and were getting ready for dinner when Rob and Kate from Aries Tor called on the radio to invite all the boats--there were now eight of them--to a bonfire on the beach and then a climb to the windward side at 7 o'clock. We ate dinner, dressed in long pants and long sleeves in order to keep the mosquitos off, and headed back to Kenutu Island. Kate met us to say that the beach was too "buggy" so we should head to the other side. When we arrived, we found Rob tending a lovely fire in a fire pit. We visited with him for awhile until the crews from several other boats arrived. There were eight adults and six kids ranging from 3 to 15. Unfortunately, there were no marshmallows or hot dogs to roast, but we all had a very good time that night.

The next morning we prepared the boat to leave and then headed out for Avalau Island. It was sunny and the wind and seas were calm so we had no problems making our way back through the channels and into the open water. It took us about two hours to reach Avalau, and when we arrived, we found a lovely island with a beautiful sandy beach and only one other boat. Once we got our anchor down, we went ashore to look around. After we had pulled the dinghy up on the beach, we noticed a group of goats lying in the shade at the top of the beach. I walked a little closer to get a picture, and then Steve and I walked along the beach and out of sight of the goats. Well, about 5 minutes later a group of six boys, whom we had seen swimming ashore, came running up the beach yelling that the goat was chasing them. We laughed as they stopped to tell us all about the goat. We continued on looking for shells and enjoying the beautiful surroundings. When we headed back to the dinghy, Steve took along a large stick just in case the goat was still around. He wasn't, but we did notice that our dinghy had been moved so we figured that the kids had moved it. We headed back out to our boat but stopped to say hello to sv Iris with John and Janet on board. They laughed as they told us that the goat had been butting our dinghy to make it move out of his territory. I guess he finally gave up and went back to rest up in the shade.

Avalau was a beautiful anchorage, but we were running out of time so we knew that we needed to leave for another anchorage on Wednesday. Wednesday morning we listened to the weather and then checked the weather reports that we receive every day. We aren't sure exactly when we will leave for the Ha'apai group so we decided to go back into Neiafu to check out of the Vava'u group. Probably on Monday we will head about 15 miles to the southeast to Maninita Island. This island is the farthest south and east in the Vava'u group so that will leave us just 55 miles to reach the Ha'apai group of islands, and that we can do in one day thus avoiding an overnight sail. It will be safer for us to sail during the day so that we can clearly see any hazards along the route.

We arrived in Neiafu around 11 o'clock and began the crazy job of trying to find an open mooring ball. The anchorage areas here are not good at all. We happened upon a boat leaving a mooring, so we grabbed it. We got our bags ready to go ashore to take care of checking out and buying some provisions. The checkout procedure was more difficult than we expected. We had to go to Immigration, the Port Captain, and the Customs, and they, of course, are located all over town. We did pick up some vegetables so Steve dropped me at the boat to put things away and write this blog while he went back into town to finish up.

We have really enjoyed our time in Tonga but definitely wish that we had had a lot more time to enjoy the area. We just regret that the weather has been so poor, which kept us from really enjoying all the beautiful anchorages in this group of islands.

I wanted to include a few additional pictures while I am able to upload them.
On our way to Niuatoputapu. A 44-inch dorado and a full rainbow.

The following are pictures of our time in Niuatoputapu. From left to right--catching the sailfish, view from the volcano, kava ceremony, anchored in Niuatoputapu harbor, and our group at the top of the volcano.

Pictures from Vava'u. Below are pictures of the Tongan feast. Sorry the food is a bit out of focus, and the picture of the dancers is a bit dark.

Snorkeling on the reef

The ARK at Tapana, Steve's birthday, the carved mask.

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