Sunday, May 31, 2009

Arrival at Pangai on Lefuka Island

June 1, 2009--Last Friday we were able to leave Tongatapu just at sunrise and head north to Nomuka Iki Island. We had planned to stop at Kelefesia; however, the swell was rolling in from the southwest, which would make that anchorage very rolly. In addition to that, it is a very small anchorage, and another sailboat was already there.

We arrived at Nomuka Iki around three o'clock and motored between Nomuka Ika and Nomuka islands, both of which have major reefs at the south entrance. We dropped the anchor in about 18 feet of water and were lucky enough to get the anchor chain hung up on the one piece of coral that would cause us trouble. Steve ended up going in the water to manually unwrap the chain. We then moved in just a bit and were able to securely set the anchor in lovely sand. Since it was late in the afternoon, we decided to just relax and then go ashore in the morning.

On Saturday, the weather reports were not good. The wind was predicted to move from east around to northwest during the next 24 hours. Unfortunately, our anchorage did not have good protection for those winds, so we pulled the anchor and headed out for O'ua Island. The wind and waves were right on our nose as we again motored between the two reefs. However, once we got to the northern side of Nomuka Island, the winds were off our beam so we put up the double-reefed main and the full jib and sailed along at 6 knots. It was one of the nicest sails that we have had in awhile. The sun was out and the waves were minimal. The only thing causing some stress are the areas marked "blind rollers" on the chart, and these occur a lot around the Ha'api group. These breaking waves are caused when the sea encounters very shallow areas, which causes the waves to break. We would be looking out over the ocean and all of a sudden see these lovely white areas of breaking waves. Luckily, our charts and chart plotter do indicate those areas, and they have been pretty accurate so far.

As we approached O'ua Island, there was one rock on the charts that we never did locate. We were approaching at high tide, so we assumed that just enough water was covering the rock and for some reason not breaking. The entrance to O'ua Island is a channel leading through the reef that starts at the south end and curves around to the west and ends at the village. There was a small area to the side of the channel where we dropped our anchor. We thought that this position put us too close to the western reef so we re-anchored closer to the main channel where we also found better holding. We then had a very late lunch and cleaned up the boat. We watched as the local fishing boat left the village.

We had just taken our showers and were reading down below when Steve said that he heard a voice. I didn't hear anything, but a few moments later we both heard it. Steve went up above and saw two local young boys swimming out to our boat, which was not a short distance. We had them come aboard to dry off and then they sat down in the cockpit with us. I gave them some soda and ginger snap cookies while we talked. Their names were William and Soskiah. William is 19 and Soskiah is 16, and they visited with us for about an hour. William did most of the talking and was very friendly. Soon it was getting dark, so they helped us put our dinghy in the water, and we took them back to shore. Steve let Soskiah drive the dinghy, and he did a great job until we got into very shallow water where Steve took over. We dropped them off on shore and then tried to pick our way back to the boat. It was low tide and very difficult to find a good path. In addition to that, our dinghy engine started acting up once again. We had just gotten back to the boat when the outboard engine died. We have no idea what the problem is so Steve again has something to keep him busy.

On Sunday morning we downloaded our usual weather report, and the forecast was again not good for us. The winds were to clock around and be pretty strong. We probably would have been fine in the lagoon; however, we also could be trapped for up to four days, especially if the wind came from the south and made the exit channel dangerous for us. Therefore, we decided to leave and go on up to Pangai to check in to the Ha'api group. We left at 8:30 in the morning, disappointed that we did not get to go ashore to the village.

The trip from O'ua Island to Pangai on Lefuka Island took us about five hours. The winds were right on the nose so we had to motor the whole way. Steve fished but did not get anything--he is becoming frustrated again. We arrived at Pangai around 1:30 in the afternoon, right at high tide. We pulled into the harbor and got ready to med-moor the boat at the breakwater. There was room for us; however, a sailboat had put down a mooring ball right in the middle of the small harbor, which made getting our anchor down very difficult. Actually, getting moored was one of the more difficult things that we have done. When we finished, we were pretty tired, but we went ashore to buy very, very fresh bread at the bakery and then went over to the Mariner's Cafe to have dinner. Their chicken, onion, and capsicum (bell pepper) pizza was very good. We returned to the boat at 7 o'clock and did not last very long after that but long enough to eat half a loaf of bread!

We hope to leave the harbor tomorrow and go just a short distance south to some of the nearby anchorages. Hopefully the weather will cooperate.

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