Monday, May 30, 2016

Happy in Ha'apai

The three main parts of Tonga are:

Tongatapu. The main island, with the capital Nuku'alofa in the south.
Ha'apai, in the middle.
Vava'u, in the north.

We started in the south, and are wending our way north.

Ha'apai is remote and relatively primitive, but beautiful, and navigationally challenging.

This is a panorama of photos from a drone. From the left; Foa,  Nukunamo and Ha'ano islands in northern Ha'apai. We stayed a few days anchored off Nukunamo Island, and met the people who run the Matafonua resort. This photo was taken by Darren Rice, one of the owners of the resort.

Darren has also made some amazing videos of whales, using underwater cameras and drones.

More videos here.

A breaking wave at sunset outside our lagoon anchorage at Kelefesia Island, the southernmost of the Ha'apai group. It involved a 4 am start from Pangaimotu in order to negotiate the coral with good light.

Snorkelling over a bommie

Our next stop north was Nomuka Iki. It is paired with the bigger Nomuka Island, with better weather coverage between the two. One problem with Ha'apai is that most of the anchorages offer limited protection if a front comes through and the wind comes from the west.

Who lives in here?

Two white-tailed tropic bird chicks

Approaching rain-squall

Kids on Nomuka

School-boys dressed in tupenos

Leaving Nomuka at dawn, skirting outside the reef.

Would it be OK if I had a feed like the other piglets? Ha'afeva Island.

We signed up for a 'cultural experience' on Ha'ano Island. The women's groups arranged it to raise money for various good causes. It was an alternative to most money raising exercises benefitting the plethora of churches. Above is a horse and cart experience. Metal wheels, no springs and a rutted road made walking attractive!

Dancers at the cultural event on Ha'ano Island

After a night crossing from Ha'apai we arrived at the spectacular Vava'u group. This is tourism central, with whale-watching and diving with whales, as well as a significant charter fleet.

Inside the Swallows Cave, Vava'u

See the bait fish in the very clear water, lit up by the late afternoon sun. 

Nimrod in the middle distance in Neiafu Harbour, Vava'u.

Checking in with customs turns into a medical consultation. Dr George advises weight loss might help a leg ulcer. See his skirt (tupeno) and ta'ovala (floor mat worn around waist).

More schoolboys in tupenos, Neiafu.

Thursday, May 19, 2016


We did a tour around the main island of Tongatapu, and did some provisioning. A few sights to see. The prominence of the royal family, pigs, churches, and cemeteries were striking. People were friendly, and we felt safe.

Pigs working the mudflats

George working the Talamahu market

More in the Talamahu market

Fishmarket on the wharf

Safety instruction poster

Musos playing in a cafe called 'Friends'.

Muso's fashion head-dress

More fashion. This mat is called a ta'ovala. A large tatty one signifies that the wearer was close to a deceased person at a recent funeral.

There is an island about thirty minutes away from Nuku'alofa called Pangaimotu. It is a pleasant place to hang out, and features the Big Mama Yacht Club and Bar.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Cruising: Doing repairs in exotic places!

We flew into Nuku'alofa last night from the Gold Coast, via Auckland. Picked up at the airport by John, a Tongan of at least 200 kg. Then we stayed at the Waterfront Lodge, close to where Nimrod had been left by the delivery crew.

Reassuring to see that she was afloat and not obviously vandalised. I'll swim out to her in the morning.

No one misses an opportunity to tell us that Tonga is a monarchy, and was never colonised. It is also very Christian; ie nothing happens on Sundays.

I think it might be illegal to work on our boat on Sunday, but we have lots to do.

Fix the steering.

Royce created a double car to replace the single car that broke on the way over. One theory is that the starboard cable had a connection point in front of the connection point for the port cable, so that there was a wobbly moment as the steering moved, stressing the car.

So I redrilled the connection. One is exactly above the other.

Another theory is that the car was too flimsy. Royce fitted a second one.

Some of this will be more interesting to other Seawind 1160 owners than the social readership!

Several other missions too.

Replace the Raymarine i60 Wind instrument.

Replace the LED navigation lights.

Refit the trampolines. Royce recommended using 4mm black Spectra cord rather than the 5mm double braid, which had worn through. 

Replace the toilet pump switch. 

Fill the boat with diesel fuel. This was far more complicated than you might imagine. It involved booking a ute to carry a 200 litre drum to come to a public wharf. The bloke expected us to somehow pour it from this drum into the tanks, using a large hose, without any pump or controlling nozzle. The hose was fatter than our tank holes. Recipe for a big mess! Eventually we persuaded him to go and get a hose with a nozzle, which we then filled the tanks slowly using a Mr Funnel filter funnel. You can't trust diesel in the Pacific to be clean.

Then the outboard, which had gone for a swim as Royce left the boat, although it worked, had a very erratic rate. Basically 'flat-out' or stall. The culprit was probably the 'slow running jet', which had probably been faulty before the swim. Discussion here. We found an English ex-pat engineer with a tribe of strong young Tongan sons who took the outboard away to clean the carburettor. Main lesson relearned: when leaving the motor for any length of time, detach the fuel hose and run the carburettor empty, so prevent the fuel, and/or seawater, from evaporating and leaving 'varnish', or salt, blocking the jets. Discussion here.