Passage to New Zealand – part 5

By 17.00 on Sunday (29 October) nothing much had changed – the wind continued to be between 17-25 knots and we were steaming along downwind under a single reefed genoa. The seas were large and we were sideswiped a few times by rogue waves breaking over us and sending us rolling wildly from gunnel to gunnel but most of the time we were surfing up and down the waves ahead. The sky remained gloomy although the sun did make the occasional albeit brief appearance. For the night we moved our shifts back – starting at 19.00 – as the sun sets now around 19.30. It is nice to see longer than the standard 12 hour days that we had become used to in the Caribbean….feels much more seasonal. We also double reefed the genoa in anticipation of the strong winds forecast.
The conditions remained largely unchanged throughout the night although we were getting pushed off course by a combination of the waves and current – so we had to tweak our heading to remain on our rhumb line. The winds strengthened during the night to 27 knots but only for a few hours – the rest of the time they were in the 17-25 range as before. Of course 27 knots downwind is actually about 35 knots if you were sailing directly into it and you could tell the difference by the white foam coming off the top of the waves….
Early Monday morning (30 October) and we’d broken through the 1,000 mile mark almost 36 miles ahead of our route schedule. Woo hoo! We saw 9.2 knots surfing on the waves earlier so are looking for a double digit one today if the winds pick up as forecast. We are expecting the wind to increase to at least 35 knots so will leave the sail as is. Interestingly the reefs are making little overall difference to our boat speed although they might if the seas continue to build and/or change direction. The temperature has dropped again to 19 degrees C so we’re feeling it! We have big fluffy clouds today instead of the gloom so there are patches of blue sky around although the sea remains grey and slightly menacing.
We keep resetting the AIS because we are sure there are other boats out here apart from us. So far nothing other than SV Sea Bear and SV Taranga who we left behind a few days ago after briefly being in company. Where are the fishing boats we have been warned to watch out for? Where are the commercial vessels or even cruise ships? What about other cruisers using the same weather window as us – or did they all stall at Minervous Reef LOL? Where are the sea creatures: the whales migrating south with their new born calves; the dolphins; the flying fish and the kamikaze squid? All very strange……
By 14.00 we had a container ship cross our bow 20 miles ahead and a large yacht crossed our stern. Another yacht signal turned up behind us doing about 5.5 knots but it went off before we could identify him. What a strange turn of events…. At 17.00 I’m cooking dinner and came up for a breather and we were met by a pod of dolphins! Fantastic….always puts a smile on our faces. Do you think they’ve been reading my blog LOL?!?
We had a couple of ships after that….and one actually changed course to go behind our stern. We approached New Zealand carefully in the pitch black night – and, of course, that was when it started to rain. We worked our way gingerly through the channel – assisted by two local fishing boats who gave us some useful hints and tips. During this night navigation exercise there was a gale warning issued by the NZ radio. Just in time – phew! Hope Chris and all the others are OK.
We finally found the quarantine dock to the Bay Islands Marina and got ourselves alongside and secured. So, at 03.08, we officially arrived in New Zealand!! We did it…..we crossed the South Pacific!!! Woo hoo….. Too cold for celebratory beers it’s time for bed.
Bye for now Jan

Passage to New Zealand – part 4

At 15.00 on Friday (27 October) we were heading south east as suggested by Bob the weather man. This was opposed to everything we have read and heard about this passage. Usually one sets a waypoint north of the tip of New Zealand’s North Island and then, as the wind and currents switch to the west as you get further south, you run downwind towards your destination also gaining some shelter from the island. So to go south east at this juncture – giving up our westing in effect – felt wrong. However Bob is warning of a large high giving strong ENE winds early next week and all four PredictWind models agree so the new course should allow us to ride these winds rather than having to beat into them. Although we do expect confused seas as the wind will be opposing the current. Only time will tell whether this strategy works.
The benefit of this course change was that we were running constantly on a broad reach, our fastest point of sail, and were eating up the miles. The weather was beautiful and crisp with blue skies and flat deep blue seas with a steady 15 knots of breeze. Wish all sailing days could be like this.
At 1.00 on Saturday (28 October) the conditions remained the same although a north element was creeping into the wind as expected but we held our broad reach despite being pushed further east. At 3.00 we turned south directly towards Opua and were running downwind under a full genoa only. In 15+ knots of breeze we don’t need to deploy the pole to keep the sail full and the main – which we could carry wing on wing – is safely furled back inside the mast. We don’t want to get caught out in stronger winds with the main tied down especially with its furling problem so we have decided to protect it from damage.
By 6.00 the sun had come up and it was really cold….bitingly so…under a cloudy grey sky. I’m now wearing two fleeces over a tee shirt and fleece-lined waterproof trousers plus socks and am still cold. May have to dig out the thermals soon. The temperature is actually 20 degrees Celsius – which would be a nice day back home in the UK – so it is not that bad but I reckon the wind chill factor takes it down to zero LOL.
We were making good speed so were hoping for a Tuesday morning arrival. At 10.00 the clouds had lifted slightly to give us a glimpse of sun but it had no warmth in it. The best thing about the cooler temperatures is that the fridge and freezer are more efficient as they are keel cooled and sleeping snuggled into blankets is so much easier than sweating in the tropics!
During the day the wind and sea started building along with the rolly movement from side to side. There were a few rogues out there bashing us up but Morphie did brilliantly and just pushed us along refusing to be intimidated by some of the huge towering waves behind her. Mares tail clouds dominated the blue sky and gave us an indicator of what was coming. By 18.00 the wind was pushing 23 knots so we reefed down the genoa and continued on. There was a spectacular sunset around 19.30 and the temperature dropped yet again. The wind remained steady in the low to mid 20s throughout the night.
At 6.00 on Sunday (29 October) the sun came up and the sky was red below the grey clouds. You know what they say….red sky is the morning….. Yep we’ve got all the warning signs thanks! The sun disappeared into the gloomy grey sky so it felt like sailing at home in the Solent. The conditions remained unchanged and we’ll have to see what comes next. Right now we are enjoying this sail and are comfortable in our shift patterns. I have noticed, however, that the ‘optional’ two hours set aside each per day in case we need to snooze, is now a regular feature of the day as we both rush to our warm blanketed beds instead of staying in the cockpit together LOL.
Bye for now Jan

Passage to New Zealand – part 3

Wednesday night we motor sailed in very light airs but, sadly, the wind decided to shift against us so we were slowly being pushed away from our rhumb line. To tack would be useless as we would end up head on into the waves – slowing us even further – and there are reefs south of our rhumb line to be avoided. So we continued pressing on.
By Thursday morning (26 October) we had a stormy sunrise but patches of blue sky around later gave us hope for brighter weather. The wind was still being difficult with too light airs and in the wrong direction so we continued motor sailing. Suddenly around 10.30 the wind kicked in at 16 knots but the cloud cover regrouped and it started raining again. And that set the scene for another cloudy rainy miserable day with the only bright spot being the 22 knot wind that the rain brought with it. The angle was pretty tight so we were close hauled and beating – but at least we were making good speed in an OK direction. When close hauled we like to utilise the staysail but this is out of action right now because the dinghy is on the bow and blocks the running rigging to the Hoyt boom. And leaving dink on the arch for long ocean passages isn’t recommended after our previous experience…. Never mind, it is what it is!
By 16.00 the wind shifted in our favour – hurrah! – and clocked around to SE so we were able to finally hold our rhumb line. We passed our last mid-ocean waypoint and it is now just one long straight shot from here to Opua so we were excited about reaching that milestone. Our speed had improved significantly and, at 18.00, was boosted further when the wind clocked to ESE. The sky was lighter ahead so hopefully we had finally got away from that trough…. Fingers crossed!
The sun set on a miserable day. During the evening and throughout the night, the wind remained steady at 15 knots from the ESE and the seas flattened. We sailed on a broad reach running parallel with our rhumb line and made good progress. Not sure we had completely left the poor weather behind us as the night was very dark and gloomy with the odd spot of rain. But definitely an improvement in sailing conditions although the temperature dropped by a few degrees so we might be forced to dig out the socks soon LOL.
At 6.00 Friday (27 October) the great conditions remained the same. We think the trough has finally left us as the skies are cloud free and we had a beautiful sunrise. To our starboard, on the horizon, is another yacht and we were delighted to see on the AIS that it was Sea Bear. The last time we saw Chris was off Big Momas when he left on Friday afternoon – in the Western Hemisphere – and we are both now in the Eastern Hemisphere. Another milestone ticked, not sure what it does to our Golden Shellback status but will check it out and let you know later. Oh yes it is even colder today so I’ve finally succumbed to socks!
By 13.30 the wind had dropped and was now behind us. Sea Bear remained off to starboard and we have been joined by another boat behind us. We have just received a weather update from Bob our weather guru…and he has advised us to head further east before then running directly towards Opua. We are expecting strong winds on Monday / Tuesday now so forewarned is good!
Bye for now Jan

Passage to New Zealand – part 2

On Monday afternoon (23 October) the wind went up and down like a yoyo. One minute we were doing 5+ knots in 13 knots of breeze then we slowed to only 3 knots boat speed in 7 knots of wind. The pole helped the sail remain full but in these fickle conditions our speed was variable at best. We persevered all afternoon and at 18.00 we downloaded the latest weather. The good news was that our window continued to exist but the winds were much lighter at the earlier part of the passage than had previously been forecast.
We were expecting a trough to come through bringing squally conditions so put away the pole as we headed into our evening shifts after an amazing sunset. The sun went down and the clouds built giving us a pitch black gloomy night with no light whatsoever. All very spooky! The wind remained light and variable and we have slipped about 8 miles behind our passage plan – not much chance of making that up right now. During Richard’s evening shift he went wing on wing to boost our speed…..but I wasn’t happy to do that solo as I was worried about getting caught out in a squall so changed it back when I came on shift. Funnily enough we both clocked exactly the same average speed throughout the night so it seems to work both ways LOL.
By Tuesday morning (24 October) the sun had peeked through a very grey heavily laden sky. It remained gloomy and we were still waiting for the illusive squalls to bring us some wind. The wind died down to 5-6 knots so we motor sailed and made water at the same time trying to maintain our progress. I can hear you all wondering what does it matter if we are a bit slower, we’ll still get there, right? Well, yes, that’s true but the weather systems here come off the Tasmin Sea regularly like cars on a race track and the longer we are out here the more chance we have of getting walloped by one. So our focus is to try and keep moving as quickly as possible to make it to land in the current benign weather window.
By 11.00 we had resorted to wing on wing including a poled out genoa working really hard to keep our speed above 5 knots in the light conditions. We were still awaiting the trough so were keeping vigilant watching the skies for any signs. Thankfully the day brightened up considerably and we just had a hazy day with the odd glimpse of sunlight. It was even warm enough to take our jackets off LOL.
By 6pm we had gybed to a starboard tack with reefed genoa and mainsail. Still waiting for the trough to arrive wondering whether it had dissipated. But the latest weather forecast still included it so we continued being cautious and the barometer reading / wind direction was an indicator of rain within 24 hours. By midnight the rain had arrived….and then came the wind…with a steady 25 knots on a beam reach. We were screaming along at speeds clocking more than 8 knots. The seas built and the wind continued to blow…and it was the most exhilarating sailing ever! I could have done without the rain part though as I was pretty soggy by the end of my shift.
I handed over to Richard at 3.00 on Wednesday (25 October) and he enjoyed the same conditions. Sadly our fun came to an end by 6.00 when the wind shifted as the trough spun away and dragged behind it a very large, lumpy, and angry sea. The wind dropped to 6 knots and we made little headway despite tacking to a more favourable position. By 11.00 we were motor sailing in light airs under a gloomy grey sky into lumpy seas and was being treated to the occasional rain shower. We were waiting for the wind to swing more southerly – SE would be perfect! – so we can make up time yet again. Despite the huge gains made overnight we lost them to the grumpy sea later. Never mind…..
At 12 the wind filled in again and we were screaming along. The rain started again so looks like we may have found the other side of the trough?!? By 13.00 the wind swung around and we had to run away from our rhumb line…then by 15.00 we were heading back to our rhumb line until the next time the wind changed. Really good winds at 15-25 knots but fickle in direction so we are constantly changing course to accommodate them whilst keeping our forward momento. At 16.00 the winds died back to 7 knots – although in the right direction – so we are again motor sailing in the rain.
Just having dinner and we were contacted by SV Taranga – a Danish boat that left a similar time to us on Sunday so reassuring to know that 400 miles later we are making similar progress.
Been a strange sort of day but all is well on the good ship Morpheus.
Bye for now Jan

Passage to New Zealand – part 1

We picked up anchor as planned just before 10.00 on Monday 22 October. The wind was very light as we started motoring through the chicane of reefs, islands and cardinal markers that surround Tongatapu.
Around noon we were heading out the main shipping channel into deep water in 12 knots of breeze so we pulled out the main sail in readiness for our turn. OMG it got caught at the top edge folded in a strange way into the mast. We are not sure how this happened as it went in easily enough the other day. We decided not to try pull out any more as we risked tearing the sail so instead we furled it back in. This worked so we decided to continue on knowing that we can’t have more than a double-reefed main out at any time until we investigate further. That’s fine – we can live with that! We deployed a full genoa and starting running downwind in about 12 knots of breeze. Was a rollickingly good sail and we were grateful for such a pleasant introduction to this passage as we shook off the cobwebs.
By 18.00 the wind had switched to 120 degrees on the port side and the seas flattened as the sun started to drop in the sky…we were ahead of schedule and had seen 8+ knots of boat speed at times when the wind had increased to 20 knots. We reefed the genoa for the night and moved into our shift patterns. Jadean were behind us and radioed for a chat – wanting to know whether we were stopping at Minerva Reef or not along the way. We have named this Minervous Reef as everyone goes there to debate the weather yet again…. They wanted our weather info and I gave them a brief synopsis but, obviously, this passage plan is devised for a monohull not a large catamaran. We exchanged contact details and continued on. I forgot to tell them about our battery problem so they are probably cursing me for not replying to them by now!
We continued to sail along nicely through to about 21.00 when the wind became more fickle in both speed and direction. It swung from NE to SE and speeds have varied between 7-22 knots. So we played the ‘keeping my sails full at all time’ passage game to maintain our speed throughout the night. The night sky was fabulous with an amazing array of stars and planets shining through the pitch black shroud…only to be matched by the spectacular phosphorescence display behind the stern as we pushed our way through the water. Was a cold night and we sailed in fleeces and long trousers…but I refuse to give up on the bare feet just yet LOL.
At 6.00 on Monday 23 October we watched a beautiful sunrise and shook out the reef in the genoa. The wind is steady at 12-15 knots and we were doing well. By 10.00 the wind had eased so our boat speed had dropped below 5 knots but we remained pretty much on schedule at this point. Hoping for a bit more wind but we’ll not look a gift horse in the mouth with this beautiful crisp bright chilly day with flattish seas sparkling deep blue in the sunshine. Bliss!
At noon we calculated that we had covered 122 miles in 24 hours so we were doing fine. Sadly the wind dropped even further into single figures so we deployed the pole to see if that will lift our speed. So far so good….
Bye for now Jan

Vava’u to Tongatapu

We had a reasonable passage down from Vava’u to Tongatapu and enjoyed the sights of the perfectly-shaped volcanoes along the way plus, of course, the obligatory sunset at sea.

Wednesday afternoon Chris, from Sea Bear, came to say hi so we had a couple of restorative beers in the cockpit with him. Was nice to catch up as it was at least a week since we had seen him LOL! Later on we went ashore and got soaked in dink by the choppy waves. We admired the unusual signage for Big Mamas and enjoyed a social evening with a variety of other cruisers – some new to us like Paul and Gloria from SV Scallywag and others we had met before like Sarah and Phil from SV Serenity of Swanwick.

Thursday morning we got the little ferry across to the mainland to check in. Luckily we were with Sarah and Phil – who were checking out – so we found the relevant offices. They were a good 20 minute walk away through various car parks etc so not sure we would have found them on our own!  We completed our check in quickly and then walked along the waterfront towards the town. On the way we passed the small boat wharf and had views across to Pangiamotu where Morphie is anchored.

The banner across the main road reminded me of a long and distant past and I’m sure my BoE friends will enjoy this picture!

The walk to town was long…. Nuku’alofa is the capital of the Kingdom of Tonga so the government buildings were to be expected.  What we didn’t expect was the opulence of the new empty building which had been commissioned but not occupied. However, the King had just sacked all his cabinet so maybe that had something to do with it?!?

What is interesting is the Asian influence here – with the extension to the main harbour being financed by the Japanese and the Chinese embassy being constructed (along with CCTV and electric fencing) was a sign of their permanence in the kingdom. All corner shops appear to be owned and run by Chinese too. When we have asked about this the main story is that the Japanese and Chinese are after the fishing / whaling rights to the area. Let’s hope that they don’t give in to that pressure, particularly on whaling, as this would kill their tourism stone dead!

We wandered around and enjoyed visiting the local market and were pleased to find that we didn’t pay pelangi prices here.

Walking through the warren of small shops and buildings we came across a garage sale Tongan style – and noticed lots of other second-hand clothing shops too.

The houses were pretty dilapidated and lots of people were showing respect by wearing their weaves and mats. The Tongans are quite shy people so taking photos of them is often refused – but I did manage to catch the back end of this woman chatting through a shop window with one of her friends. Check it out!

We had a coffee on the way to the main wharf and waited for the ferry to take us back. We returned to Morphie and downloaded weather again. There is a good weather window this weekend for New Zealand and Chris is taking off on Friday. We are not ready to go but don’t want to miss the window so will continue to watch it carefully.

We spent the rest of the afternoon on board doing various jobs in readiness for our forthcoming passage including some cooking, engine checks, passage planning, some admin things like annual insurances and so on. We went ashore – getting soaked again – for sundowners and had to resort to jackets as it is really chilly here. Had another social evening but were surprised by the weather debates committee – it is up to everyone to move when they are comfortable – and it is clear that most cruisers are extremely nervous about this trip and have resorted to group think. We are not going to get involved in this as we think it is a recipe for disaster or interminable delay.

Friday morning and the favourable weather window remained – confirmed by MetBob in New Zealand whom we have engaged as our weather router – so we went ashore on the ferry again to check out (as weekends are difficult). We paid our Port Authority fees (only £20) and then got our international clearance for New Zealand. Again the only subject of conversation on the ferry over was the weather and most are heading off to Minerva Reef to stage their passage. However, the window looks good all the way so we do not plan to stop unless the conditions are not as anticipated when we get out there.

On the wharf a guy sells BBQ chicken – but cooked over logs rather than charcoal.   All the rotisseries were automated too….smelt fantastic but a bit early for us LOL.

To avoid the long walk we got a taxi into town – a huge £1.50 fare – and visited the bakers for bread for the freezer. Was delighted to find proper pastry sausage rolls so got some of them for our trip too…. The streets don’t have names here so directions are given via landmarks – here’s the church school and the big tree near the market.

We had a coffee before we returned on the ferry and said our farewells to Chris who was leaving that afternoon. We spent the afternoon doing more pre-passage preparations and then had another chilly evening at Big Momas.

This morning, Saturday, and we continue to prepare for the trip south. We have finished our passage planning; we have done all the washing; the hull has been cleaned; passage food is in the freezer; fleeces, blankets and cold weather gear have been rescued from the depths of a locker; engine checks are complete; diesel tank topped up;  and we have just got rid off all our rubbish. The outboard is on the rail and dink is back on the bow and we’re now pretty much ready. We’re not going out tonight so that we are fresh for the morning. It is a shame to be leaving so soon after our arrival here as this is where the King’s palaces and tombs are located and I’d have liked to have seen them….but we can’t afford to let this weather window pass us by.

Sunday morning we are planning on picking up our anchor at 10.00 bound for New Zealand. This is a passage of about 1100 miles through an area renowned for unpredictable weather so we hope that the forecasts are correct but we have battened down the hatches tightly anyway.  We will set the tracker off once every 24 hours (6 am UK time) so that you have an idea of where we are and I hope to continue blogging throughout the passage so long as the Iridium Go! battery lasts. Fingers crossed it gets us all the way there if we are frugal with it.

Bye for now


Passage to Tongatapu

As planned we dropped our mooring ball at 21.00 hrs on Monday 16th October and worked our way through the anchorage to the channel. We were waved off by air horns which we presume was Ian to wish us good luck so we replied in kind – and other boats joined in. Was quite touching.
We motored slowly and carefully out towards the pass to deep water through the narrow chicane and between a couple of small unlit islands. In the very dark moonless night these were nervous times.
Thankfully by around 22.30 we were running alongside Hunga in deep water so we raised a reefed genoa and main and were hurtling along. As we came to the end of the island we realised we were over canvassed for the wind and sea state so reefed down further. The forecast was 15-20 knots decreasing through the night with moderate seas. So why did we find 25-30 knots plus higher in rain squalls?!? Never mind….at least it was a beam reach. The wind kept moving forward of the beam during the night and there were lots of rogue waves slamming our port side and breaking over us so we got wet a few times.
By 6.00 on Tuesday the wind had moderated slightly giving us a steady 20 knots still on a beam reach. But the skies were grey and heavily laden with the promise of rain. We have been going much faster than our passage schedule so have decided, at this early stage, not to shake out any of the reefs. We’ll evaluate that decision later – right now we were enjoying the more comfortable ride and I was hoping that Richard would manage to sleep as he had been struggling thus far.
At 10.00 the wind had moved to 60 degrees off the port bow and eased to about 16 knots. We shook out both the headsail and genoa reefs, pulled out the staysail, and hardened up. We were easily maintaining our target speed of five knots with an ETA for Wednesday morning so everything was going to plan although I would have preferred the promised beam reach as we hadn’t sailed upwind since we left the Caribbean LOL. Was a lovely day’s sailing.
This short passage meant that we could raise dink (without his outboard which was on the rail) onto the davits. But of course he is still leaking and if he deflates he might swing about causing stresses on the arch so every shift change Richard pumps more air into him – CPR for dinghies whatever next LOL!
By the time we went into our evening shifts, however, the sea state had got lumpy and the wind continued to clock more southerly and strengthened to 20+ knots again. We couldn’t hold our course – and with hazards to starboard – we needed to tack and get more easting in. We did this and went straight into the waves making very slow progress for a few miles. Then we tacked back and were making good speed once again. At 21.00 we had a cruise ship and a fishing boat sighting – no worries or concerns – but the wind continued to shift and eventually we couldn’t hold the course again. By this time we were running in deep water (5,000 feet) between sea mounts (rising sharply to 85 feet) and active (2016) underwater volcanos to both port and starboard. The seas around these areas are confused and lumpy and we started to lose traction. Eventually by midnight we had to motor sail to make any progress….and even at 1800 rpm we were still struggling to make 3-4 knots. What a difference a night makes!
By 6.00 on Wednesday we had passed the sea mounts and volcanos and were motoring directly into wind and waves towards the ship channel entry through the reef . It was a strange feeling though to be heading towards an island that we couldn’t see when only 15 miles away from our final destination.
We worked our way in through the reefs and little islands and finally, at 11.45, we arrived having sailed 181 miles and are now anchored off of Big Mommas Resort.
Bye for now Jan

Final days in Vava’u, Tonga

Wednesday night the rain abated so we went ashore to the Aquarium Cafe. We met up with Ian and he was in a celebratory mood as his spare parts had arrived and his boat now had power again – having been stuck here for almost three months – so we had a quite a good reunion.

Thursday it poured with rain all day…..cats and dogs…..and was just plain miserable. So we stayed on board. We did a few boat jobs but most of the day we just lazed around before a few cold ones in the cockpit watching the sun go down before having an early night.

Friday morning it was miserable again….but we headed into town anyway. We dropped off our sheets and towels at the laundry, went to the fruit and veg market and various other bits and pieces before spending some time in the Tropicana Cafe drinking coffee and downloading the latest weather files.

Usually we download all our grib files using the Iridium Go! Unit. But remember that charging problem? Well, the charging USB port on the unit has completely broken and there is no workaround as the unit is sealed so we can’t re-solder the part or hard wire it instead. We have found out that it has to be returned to the USA for repairs (or swap out) under warranty. Our unit’s battery was down to two out of three bars but, luckily, we found another cruiser who was willing to fully charge our battery for us inside his own Go!  So the unit is fully operational but we have limited battery capacity. We can’t rely on getting it charged again so we are going to have to be very frugal in our use. This means that we will only turn it on for half an hour a day maximum whilst underway just to download weather;  send blog updates;  and ping the tracker. So the tracker will not follow us in real time with our boat speed etc but will at least continue to show our passage (albeit in a straight line probably over land LOL) and our position on arrival.  Hopefully we’ll be able to do this all the way to New Zealand but, if the battery doesn’t hold up, we may end up having to limit our use to just weather updates. But we’ll keep you posted.

Having done all our jobs for the day we had a lazy afternoon before heading into the Mango Lounge for sundowners. The bar was busy and the sunset was absolutely spectacular over the bay.

We had a fun evening chatting with Ian but we had to get our own drinks.  Usually the staff here are over-attentive and ask you every couple of minutes whether you want another one so Ian had complained, the old curmudgeon. So, of course, they avoided our table like the plague LOL obviously under instruction from the boss. But, have to admit, it was nice to chat without constant interruptions!

Saturday morning we were up early and headed over to Ian’s boat.

As his power was now restored we were going to help him recalibrate the autopilot which reverted to factory settings when power failed.   So we went up and down the bay, doing circles and straight lines, until finally it was done. Luckily for me he had the same Raymarine control head so I was very confident in giving instructions to Ian on the helm as we swung the compass.

Then we headed back to the mooring field and got him reattached to a mooring before returning to Morphie via the laundry.

Saturday afternoon we did our hand washing and had a leisurely afternoon followed by an early dinner before we headed into Aquarium for a drink. Ian joined us again and we had another fun evening.

Sunday morning and it was a special day.   Happy 60th Birthday Richard.   Congratulations and all my love on reaching this milestone and here’s to lots more ahead!   Cheers….

Richard enjoyed opening his cards and presents from home – which I had gathered together last November before we left home and had kept them hidden on board throughout the season.

We had a leisurely breakfast and then I cleaned the boat down below while Richard worked on dink yet again.  The glue just won’t dry here in the humidity so the patches don’t stick properly and after a few days they peel and the leaks are exposed again. Never mind, sigh…. We also did some passage planning.

Sunday evening we went ashore and celebrated Richard’s birthday.  Check out his tee shirt present – great vintage indeed LOL!

We had dinner at the Mango Lounge and the staff very kindly made Richard a chocolate desert and a happy birthday sign – he got a kiss from our waitress and we all sang to him.

By this time we had been joined by Ian and Frank (whom we last saw in Hiva Oa) and had a lovely low key evening.

This morning, Monday, and we’ve been ashore and done our inter-island clearance with customs. We’ve picked up more provisions and have returned to Morphie. I’m blogging and cooking some passage food whilst Richard is catching up on line using the phone SIM card.   Later on we are going to get the boat ready to go to sea, do last minute engine checks and rest up. Tonight at 9.00 pm we are going to leave in the dark (unusually) headed towards the capital of the Kingdom of Tonga, Nukualofa in the Tongatapu island group. Our plan is to anchor off Big Momma’s resort which is on the island of Pangaimotu. We are hoping to do our check in via the resort’s ferry rather than having to take Morphie into the rat-infested commercial harbour – fingers crossed!

This passage is 180 miles so it’s roughly a 36 hour run at an average of five knots hence our evening departure which means we’ll arrive safely in daylight on Wednesday.

Bye for now


Mounu Island Resort, Tonga

Saturday evening we spent in the Aquarium with Chris and Ian. We said our farewells to them both whilst enjoying the most spectacular sunset and a few cold beers.

Sunday we were up at a reasonable hour and slipped away from our mooring and headed to the outer islands. We enjoyed the view of the numerous wooded limestone islands and spotted numerous caves along the way.

Our destination was the private Mounu Island Resort.  This was founded by a New Zealander who became pally with the then King of Tonga and, unusually for a pelangi (Tongan for ‘foreigner), was granted a 50 year lease on this little bit of paradise. We knew that this was an exclusive private resort so we radioed ahead and asked permission to pick up a mooring. This was granted and we were delighted to find that we were the only boat there. Stunning, picture perfect, just plain beautiful!

We got ourselves settled and asked permission to come ashore. We were welcomed to the island by Kirstie and Amber – daughters of the original New Zealander – who told us a little bit about their family history. Their dad, sadly, passed away this year and the family were granted permission to bury him on the island – definitely a fitting tribute for this entrepreneurial man who was responsible for bringing tourists to Tonga to see the humpback whales. His love of the whales lives on in his daughters who are incredibly knowledgeable having been brought up here. We were welcomed as though we were guests and given permission to walk around the island which we did in about 10 minutes enjoying the spectacular scenery.

We then had a few beers enjoying the breeze and chatting to a few of the guests – there are only four rooms on the island – before returning to Morphie just as the sun was going down.

Monday we had a lazy morning before heading ashore in the early afternoon. We enjoyed ourselves bobbing in the beautiful clear water and greeted the whale watching boat as it returned. The guests were so excited about seeing and swimming with whales that we decided to book ourselves to go out with them the following day. Third time lucky!   We had a lovely afternoon on the beach – it seemed like a very long time ago since we did this.

Tuesday morning we were up really early and headed ashore by 7 am. The maintenance guy was waiting for us on the beach to help bring dink right up above the water line and tied him off to a tree. We then waited for the remaining guests – four Australian girls – to finish their breakfast and we headed out in the boat. We drove around for a while before we started to see some whales…..and then more….and then more. Just amazing especially the one who decided that our boat needed a very close encounter LOL.

We did manage to get in the water with them twice and at one point the female turned and showed us her white belly as she rose from the depths. Sadly they were too deep to get real good shots but just the memory of seeing the whales below us. watching their bubbles, and hearing their songs in the water was just fantastic.

We continued to have more surface encounters which just topped off a very special memorable day.

We returned to Morphie very happy but tired so had a rest before returning to the island for sundowners.   I went and chatted to the pet parrot while Richard got acquainted with the Royal pooch Otto – he was left on the island by the old King when he travelled abroad and, sadly, he died whilst away so never returned for him.   A real character who quite enjoyed a cuddle!

We had a few drinks with everyone before saying our sad farewells. We had thoroughly enjoyed our time on Mounu and were very grateful to Kirstie and Amber for giving us permission to visit their little bit of paradise.

We had an early night after dinner and were awoken by the sound of torrential rain. Typical!  But at least we’d had good weather whilst on the island.  Sadly, this morning Wednesday, the forecast was for unsettled weather with high winds through to and including the weekend. So that put paid to our idea of continuing to explore other islands so we returned to the safety of the sheltered anchorage in Neiafu and picked up a mooring ball just as the heavens opened again.

We also spotted a problem with our Iridium Go! unit which today decided to stop charging via the USB connector. Grrrr…. This is our lifeline for weather updates via the satellite system so we have switched it off and sent an email to the support desk to see if they can give us a workaround.  Richard thinks it is actually the connector in the (sealed) unit that has developed a fault and if we can’t charge it when the battery runs down the unit is useless until we can get it fixed.  And obviously that won’t happen in Tonga. That also puts the tracker out of action unless we can conserve enough power just to turn it on every third day or something so that it puts a position in. Of course that also means no satellite emails or blogging whilst at sea – what am I going to do with myself!?!

Seems strange to be back in town but glad to sit the weather out here with easy access to restaurants and bars particularly as we are celebrating Richard’s 60th birthday on Sunday!  Not where I had hoped to be but, hey ho, I’m sure we’ll have a good time anyway. We decided today, because of this slight weather delay, not to visit the Ha’apai group of islands so instead we are going direct to Tongatapu – a passage of about 36 hours – once the weather settles back down next week.

Bye for now


Still having fun in Vava’u, Tonga

Tuesday evening we went to the Aquarium Cafe to watching a talk about the humpback whales. This had been billed as ‘famous, entertaining and informative’ and not to be missed. Well, I beg to differ. The (English) presenter clearly knew her stuff but she thought she was funny. Her infantile attempts at humour and style of presentation was just plain annoying and irritating. Very poor and such a shame as we were keen to learn more, particularly about the migration routes and timings, but that was completely missing from the presentation. I think I could have done a better job using google as my resource. Rant over…. We had a nice evening chatting after the talk was over.

Wednesday morning and we headed to the Tropicana Cafe to meet up with our fellow Blue Water Festival participants. About 90 of us had registered for this event. We wandered up the road to the Hosea Primary School. The path up to the school was rough but the kids were lining both sides singing and dancing and dressed up in traditional costume to welcome us. Richard and I went up and down the line to shake hands and say hello to the kids and their parents and one of the taller lads gave me his flower lei. How nice!

We went to sit under an awning and were introduced to the kids by the headmistress. All the teachers and parents were dressed in their traditional finest and this was clearly a big day for them. The school is for children who are not in mainstream education – usually because they are not up to the standard required for joining or have learning difficulties – so this bridges the gap. Sadly it is not government funded at all so this little place is doing some fantastic work completely unsupported and running on school fees alone. The buildings are falling apart, the three classrooms have to have tarpaulin inside to stop the kids getting wet when it rains, and the latest project is to secure funds for roof repairs.

We sat down to be royally entertained by the kids singing and dancing – some in English – and some in Tongan. They were all absolutely amazing! The headmistress thanked us for our support as the annual Blue Water Festival and its hosts – Whangarai Marine Group and Bay of Islands Marina, New Zealand, plus some local businesses such as the Boatyard and Tropical Tease.   This is clearly a special annual event for the school – she actually broke down in tears at one point. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house at this point!

We then carried on watching the kids and eventually joined them doing ‘disco’ and the ‘train’ dance. What fun… These kids are quite shy and retiring, which is true for most Tongans that we meet, but their faces lit up when you encouraged them to join in, helped a little by the odd parental push in the right direction LOL.

After the show we then were treated to an amazing buffet lunch which had been supplied by the parents for us – ranging from suckling pig to chicken to sandwiches to cakes to fruit. We all ate our fill and then, sadly, it was time to leave. The majority of us donated some cash to the roof fund as we left and the headmistress cried all over again. As we were walking back to the waterfront all the kids and their parents were being driven away and they were all shouting and waving goodbye and wishing us safe sailing as they left.

We returned to Morphie feeling quite emotional. The school visit was certainly one of the highlights of our trip this season and showed us how generous and kind these people are despite the fact that many of them live in relatively poor conditions. Apparently the average wage here is Tongan $150 per week which equates to around £50 – and then you realise why the locals do not eat or visit the waterfront bars and restaurants as the pricing is way beyond their means.

In the evening we returned to the Aquarium where we were treated to a pizza evening and had some interesting presentations by the Whangarei Marine Group and a representative from the New Zealand biosecurity team.  We found out that there was lots of misinformation out there about what is allowed on our arrival into New Zealand. Basically we are just going to go with what we have left – food wise – and they’ll take what they want. Was another fun evening with more goodies – this time free New Zealand sim cards….  Certainly getting our money’s worth out of this festival LOL.

Thursday was the day of the Challenge Cup fun race but we decided not to join in. So Richard did some boat jobs while I tackled the New Zealand information pack to complete the necessary forms. Some can’t be completed until we actually leave Tonga but after a few hours I had made a good start!

Later on we went ashore for the After Race Party at the Basque Tavern where we were treated to a great BBQ and some free drinks….. There was some prize giving too for the competing boats and much laughter and frivolity. The music was blaring and as the drinks flowed the dancing started….. The music was an interesting mix of pretty old stuff and reminded us of a wedding DJ trying to cater to all tastes. Anyway… went on pretty late…..and we were almost the last people to leave…..suitably refreshed LOL.

Friday morning we got up at a reasonable hour and headed into town for the Treasures of the Bilge Swap Meet.

We wandered around but didn’t really find anything we needed so headed off to the market to top up on fresh produce.

We got some more drinking vouchers from the ATM before we headed to the Bella Vista for breakfast overlooking the bay and admired the (listing?) tall ship on the town’s main wharf.

The full traditional English went down very well and the huge pot of Ceylon tea certainly aided in our recovery from the excesses of the night before. On the way back up the street we popped into Tropical Tease who were making the Festival shirts.   We weren’t keen on the ‘dirt’ shirts being dried in the sun so went ahead and purchased just ‘normal’ ones which were printed to order.

In the afternoon we had a lazy time before getting ready to go ashore to the final Closing Party. When we arrived we were allocated to a table and ended up with the Bay of Islands Marina guys. Was a fun evening with a three-course meal, an auction, some more spot prizes and Tongan dancing.

The auction had another 10 days berthage in the Bay of Islands Marina so Richard bid hard…..and we were the winning boat. We now have 15 days total pre-paid and Paul, the manager, thinks we are trying to bankrupt him LOL as he had donated this (along with the 5 days we had won at an earlier event) and the money we paid went to the Vava’u Blue Water Sailing School to teach kids to sail and to swim. Another great evening…..with tunes by DJ Cue.

This morning, Saturday, and I’m blogging while Richard has filled up the diesel tank from the jugs on the rail. We need to go ashore later to get some more drinking vouchers as we spent lots at the auction….otherwise probably just a lazy recovery day from all the festivities of the last week.

Tomorrow, Sunday, we are planning on leaving Vava’u to go visiting some nearby islands – this archipelago comprises 60 islands – and we have identified a few that we fancy seeing before returning here to Neiafu to get our inter-island clearance to move to the next island group in the Kingdom of Tonga.

Bye for now