Friday, January 6, 2012

Sailing from Palmerston to Tonga and our visit there.

We set off towards Tonga, mid day I think it was. In no time at all disaster struck. The hydraulic pump for the Auto pilot decided to quit on us. We would have to hand steer the next 600 odd miles. This is a tiring job especially if there are heavy winds and sail changes have to be made, because it means that the person who is trying to get some shuteye will be woken up to do the work. We also didn't know if our new crew member could steer. She'd told us that she'd done a sailing course, but as we all know this does not mean much till you can actually test the person out. To top it all Ros was feeling the effects of seasickness and had been feeling really awful. Shame I felt so sorry for her, but we assured her that day three would have her feeling normal again. Even though she was so ill, Ros took the wheel for her 4 hour stint and David quickly saw that she was well capable of steering puddytat.
So for the next 5 days we did 6, 10, 2 watches, taking turns at the wheel and with one of us sleeping in the salon to be able to assist whoever was steering if needed.
We saw something in the water. It looked like little tiny critters, millions of them.
We had winds that made Puddytat sail at 11 to 13 knots, but then there were more times when we were moseying along at 3 to 4 knots. We wanted to come into Neiafu in daylight and so had to sit off the island, hove-to for almost two hours till the sun came up. We also lost an entire day on this trip because the international dateline goes right over Tonga. Our log book goes from Friday the 25th to Sunday the 27th in an instant. :-) We sailed into the bay at Neiafu looking for a certain yacht called Kudana. On board this yacht are my parents who're doing the sailing thing as well. Even more exciting was that I hadn't seen them since August 2008 AND today was my Mom's birthday.
Coming around the corner and heading for the bay.
David spotted their yacht and we turned towards them. Soon we were alongside and I yelled "Mangwanani Kudana", which means Good morning Kudana. Then I sang Happy Birthday toooooo yoouuuuuu! to my Mom while she stood on deck and cried with happiness... at least I hope it was happiness. :-) It was soooo great to see them again. My Mom sure got a huge surprise for her birthday.
As soon as we had our anchor set, they came across in their dinghy. Huge hugs and tears all around and lots and lots of catching up. I'd made a pearl bracelet and a small pin cushion for her. I'd also made a 4 link chain mail copper bracelet for her to wear all the time. It would help her arthritis. We spent the morning and some of the afternoon with them, but then tiredness caught up with us and we just had to have a nap.
My Mom on Kudana when we arrived.. she was really surprised to see us.
The week in Neiafu passed in a blur. We were cleared in with Immigration, Customs, Health and Quarantine, then we were allowed ashore to explore the town. It's a sweet town with the Fruit and veg. market dominating the center alongside a craft market filled with some really well and beautifully made things. The post office is situated in an old colonial type building that doesn't need air-conditioning as it is so well ventilated. We ate out at a super little restaurant called the Coconet, where the food is excellent and the service top notch. My folks showed us around and soon we were at home.
The entrance of  Swallows Cave.
David dragging the dinghy and swimming out.

Friday came and we realised that we'd better make a move to get out of there if we wanted to be in New Zealand for Christmas. David went a cleared out of the Vava'U group of islands then we made a quick visit to the Swallow cave. We dinghied in and fell into the water.. WOW the place is teaming with fish, and the stalactites are quite spectacular. We then snorkeled back to the boat dragging Limo behind us.

Huge 5 ft coral.
These are from the snorkel back to Puddytat from the cave.

A Beautiful Bun Starfish.
A sea urchin trying to hide.
Puddytat from on high, David took a photo of us...
We also did a quick a visit to Bay 27 to see some friends of ours who we'd last seen in Mexico. What a great reunion we had that night. They told us of a spectacular snorkeling spot in bay 16, so Sunday morning we motor-sailed over to this bay and enjoyed a quiet snorkel. We were the only ones there. So restful and peaceful.

The snorkel was not a simple one. we had to swim over the top of a reef to get to the outside. There was only about 3 feet of water clearing the reef and the waves were breaking over it, so it was quite a swim to get out there. We were a tad worried that when we went back we might get tumbled and then be badly scratched on the corals. But as it was we had a delightful swim and saw a veritable garden of corals and fish, all shapes sizes and colours, then pretty much body surfed our way back over the top, into calm waters and had an energetic swim back to Puddytat. Whew my legs were a tad tired after that, but I felt so great from the exercise.

The next morning, Monday we lifted our anchor and set sail towards Nuku'alofa on the island of Tongatapu. We had a good 10 knot wind to start off with and as the day drew on the wind got stronger to about 15 knots. Poor Ros was not feeling good when the weather picked up, she went to sleep in the saloon, she'd already done her watch so all was good. We decided to anchor every night at a different island, and this we did. The first was called Moungaone. The next night was stopped at Nomuka iki and now we are approaching Nuku'alofa on the Tonagtapu Island.

Here we will be clearing out of Tonga and also applying for my visitors visa for New Zealand at their consulate. We will also stock up with fresh fruit and veg for the 10 day trip to NZ. We plan to stop at a reef called Minerva Reef for a day or two to have our last snorkel in warm water and maybe meet up with Kudana who are also on their way to NZ.

I have to go and supervise Ros at the wheel now, we are nearing the harbour and there are many reefs to negotiate before we can drop the anchor. By the way, Ros soon found her sea legs again and is feeling great.... :-)

cheers for now.

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