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