Slowly sailing south

Slowly heading south through the Ha’apai Islands, Tonga
Wednesday evening, 31 October 2007

We are still anchored on the west side of Uoleva Island in the Eastern Ha’apai group. The weather has been abysmal. We arrived in light rain and strong winds, and the rain became torrential and the winds got even stronger. Yesterday it blew 30 knots even in the anchorage protected by the island and 90 foot coconut palms. Luckily the bottom of the anchorage is flat and all sand, and the anchor and 200 feet of chain (the chain alone weighs 300 pounds) was enough to keep the boat from dragging. You could feel Sabbatical III pulling hard and dancing around as gusts blew it from side to side.

We spent half the day yesterday on Yara along with Risho Maru. It was so cold to all of us that we consumed winter foods — hot lentil soup, coffee and cake, cups of tea with honey and rum, plus Laura’s meatballs. While the wind howled we played rummy.

The rain continued this morning but at 10 am it stopped so we joined Gesche, Herbert, and 4 year old Yannic from Yara for a walk on the island. There are only two permanent residents –Sonny and his wife Maria. They have a couple of thatched roof fales that are called the Captain Cook Resort. No electricity, phones, or running water. It is a backpackers resort with two guests. Apparently, Captain Cook anchored about where we are now during one of this expeditions of discovery. Sonny told us how to walk across the island to get to the windward side where we wanted to see if the 22 foot waves that were predicted were really there. Unfortunately, while we were blundering through the brush, Gesche had a run-in with some bees and we quickly retreated back to the beach. We returned to our boats as the rain returned and it is still raining lightly now, although the wind has diminished considerably. This afternoon, Laura and Alexandra performed an impromptu concert on Sabbatical III. Alexandra beautifully sang Steven Sondheim’s ‘No One is Alone’ from Babes in the Woods and ‘Mein Herr’ from Caberet to Laura’s accompaniment on her keyboard. Laura also performed the third movement of Bach’s Italian Concerto. We ended with three episodes of Seinfeld with Risho Maru, one of our favorite bad weather pastimes with them. Even 8 year old Finn has become a dedicated Seinfeld fan.

We hope to leave for Ha’afeva Island tomorrow. The idea is to day sail south from island to island for the next few days until we reach the big island of Tongatapu where the capitol city of Nuku’alofa is located. Tongatapu is the jumping off point for our passage to New Zealand. Risho Maru will join us while Yara stays another day in Uoleva.

Night sails are not safe in these waters. There are reefs and rocks everywhere but the charts are off and most navigational aids are broken or missing. The best charts are the British Admiralty Charts and they are marked ‘From a Survey of 1891.’ Even the fonts on the charts look like they date to Captain Cook. More importantly, the latitudes and longitudes are all off. When we anchored in Neiafu, my GPS position put me on the hill overlooking the harbor when plotted on the chart. An experienced Kiwi sailor we met in Samoa gave me lat and long offsets to add to the GPS coordinates in Vava’u and when I added them in, the chart took us off the hill and into the water. I thought that might be the fix, but in other islands it put our supposed location up on reefs and rocks. So this is purely eyeball navigation.

The plan was to put Laura up in our perch on the main mast spotting reefs and coral heads when we came into Uoleva last Monday. But with the strong winds and rough seas that was not prudent. We had to make due with approximating our position relative to waves breaking on reefs and the tip of the island all oriented to the 100 year old chart. There is supposed to be a flashing navigation light on the end of the big reef protecting the anchorage, but the light went out some years ago and was never replaced (according to Sonny). In other places we have been in Tonga, we have looked in vain for buoys that are marked in the charts but are no longer there. The buoy that marks the entrance to busy Nuku’alofa harbor went adrift in 1992 and has never been replaced.

It has been an unusually wet and windy spring in the waters between New Zealand and Tonga/Fiji. Sailors all talk about only one thing – the weather. Everyone is looking for a weather window to go to New Zealand. It is amazing to me how paranoid and over-anxious my fellow cruisers have become over this passage. It is the tropical cyclone season now and people are worried about one forming and hitting Tonga, even though tropical storms are quite rare this early in the season, but those that have departed for NZ in the past two weeks have had uncomfortable weather on the way. Many of them left all at once when one NZ meteorologist who sends out a free email weather blurb said ‘For those of you in TONGA, now’s the time to up anchor and head south.’ Then the weather guru on the German net seconded this view. The rush was on and many of our friends, such as Vera, Quest, and Nautilus, left. Two days later the weather gurus said the window was closed and everyone was advised to stay put. It is an eight day sail to New Zealand and there is no turning back.

Laura and I are trying not to get the herd mentality and will wait for a weather window large enough to get us all the way to NZ safely. To make sure we have the best information, I have engaged a very respected weather router in the US and another one in NZ to suggest when to go and what course to sail to avoid trouble. There seems to be a sequence of low pressure systems marching up from the Tasman Sea, and as long as that continues we will stay put and brush up on our rummy and concertos.


Safe arrivel in Ha’apai

October 29th – safe arrival in Ha’apai

At 10:00 a.m. today we arrived safely, if not entirely comfortably in “Uoleva” anchorage in the Ha’apai group of islands in Tonga . After spending 5 weeks among many of the 40 beautiful anchorages of the Vava’u group of Tonga we left anchorage #40 – “Ovalau” – at 6:00 p.m yesterday (in tandem with Rishu Maru), setting out for our 70 mile sail with a weather forecast of clear skies and light to moderate winds and seas. It was a gorgeaus sunset and as soon as we rounded the corner from our protected anchorage we found that there was quite a bit of wind – certainly enough for a fast sail that would get us to Ha’apai by early morning. Instead of winds of 10-15 which was forecast, we found the winds to be at least 20 knots, but from a great direction which allowed us to sail along comfortably, heading almost directly south right on our course. Our only problem was that we were moving along too fast (more than 8 knots) and would certainly arrive in Ha’apai in the middle of the night if we kept up that pace, so we started reefing our sails- something that is very easy and safe to do with our boat as you don’t have to leave the cockpit. The almost full moon rose – a really fantastic sight as there were some small clouds obscuring it when it first rose, but then they parted just like a curtain, and suddenly the orangy moon was lighting up the whole sky.

As the night progressed the wind picked up and we kept reefing sail until we had just the smallest amount of sail up and still we were charging along at too fast of a pace. We wanted to pull in the whole mainsail and just sail with the genoa and mizzen, but found that the outhaul on the mainsail was stuck so that we couldn’t pull in the whole sail. It was not a big problem though as just a small amount of sail was still up and we knew we could furl it up once we reached more protected waters. By 6:00 a.m. the winds had increased to 25-30 knots – way more than forecast, but we were only about 10 miles away from our anchorage. We had to sail almost due east to reach the anchorage and unfortunately the wind was hitting us right on the nose so we had to either motor in or tack. The wind and waves were too strong to motor at a decent speed, and we did not want to use up our precious fuel, so we tacked our way up into the wind until we were just 4 miles outside the anchorage. It was quite wet with small waves continuously breaking over the hull, and the wind barreling down at us at 30 knots. Very tiring. For the last hour we turned on the motor and proceeded directly into the big, sandy, protected anchorage. The strength of the wind could be felt right up until we were nearly on the beach, and then the island and the palm trees started blocking out most of the wind and it became quite comfortable.

Our friends on Rishu Maru do not have a strong engine at all and had to tack their way right up into the anchorage which took an additional 2 hours and they were soaking wet and exhausted when they arrived. None of us had any sleep last night (well, I had 2.5 hours), so we are all just resting up on our boats for the rest of the day. Weather forecast is for increasing wind and waves for the next day or two so we are glad to be in a sheltered and safe anchorage. The beach here looks gorgeaus, but I am not sure we will get to even walk on it until the weather clears up. Lots of books and movies on board though – plus plenty of food – so we are in good shape. It is still a long way to New Zealand and we are anxiously watching weather patterns looking for an opening to go.

Quick synopsis of our last week with Ben

Quick synopsis of our last week with Ben

Friday October 12th- Mark was not feeling too well so Ben and I went for an evening hike up in the hills. We found some beautiful tropically wooded areas but could not find any paths and the brush was too thick to walk through. Luckily for us we ran into Regine and Gerard, a fantastic French couple from the boat “Galdus” who were also out for a little hike. They are veteran walkers/hikers and before long Gerard had led us to a beautiful path up on a steep cliff overlooking the ocean. It was a great opportunity for Ben to take some pictures and for us both to practice our French.

Ben and Regine and Gerard from Galdus

Afterwards we joined a musical group that was playing together up by the site of the previous night’s pirate party. Lots of guitarists and singers and Ben impressed everyone with his drum playing on a borrowed gembe (jembe?).
Saturday October 13- we sailed with Risho Maru and Yara to anchorage 23,a gorgeaus anchorage which overlooks a sand spit – you can walk between islands on the pink sand at low tide. We all walked on the beach and then Ben, Mark and I snorkeled around one of the reefs. That night we were invited to Risho Maru for a jazz night in which Peter talked about jazz, and in particular about one of his favorite musicians, Joe Zavinol (sp?) who recently died. Then he played us a great selection of jazz going back about 40 years. Really fun and it was great to do it with Ben here.

Sunday October 14- A gorgeaus day. Our friends have windsurf boards and Peter spent a few hours with Ben teaching him how to do it. Ben realized it is a lot harder than it looks, but had a great time trying.

Monday October 15- Another beautiful day at anchorage 23. We spent a fair amount of time cleaning the hull. Mark and Ben took turns using the “Brownie” – an underwater breathing apparatus (electric hookah) that lets them go under the boat and clean off the incredibly thick growth that has accumulated there. We were invited over to “Vera” for a pasta dinner with Michel and Britta.

Tuesday October 16- Still at anchorage 23 – We finished cleaning the hull of the boat and then decided to take the dinghy over to the nearby island (anchorage #32) which is known for is good snorkeling. We found fantastic coral – greens,blues, yellows, pinks, purple, plus lots of interesting fish. The water was freezing cold in some spots and as hot as a bath in others. Risho Maru and Vera left earlier in the day for anchorage 11 and at about 5:00 p.m we pulled up anchor and sailed over to join them.

Wednesday October 17- Ben prepared to leave – packing, exchanging digital photos of the trip and giving us some new music to listen to. In the evening we dinghied over to the Spanish restaurant La Paella for a farewell dinner with our friends from Vera and Risho Maru. The only guests in the restaurant were the 8 of us at our table and one other table of 4. There is no road to this restaurant which is on Tapana Island- you have to get there by boat. We ate there two weeks ago and had a great time, but last night was even better. It is a simple, but beautiful restaurant overlooking the harbor. When you sit there with the cool breeze blowing through and the moon and stars shining through you don’t even care if the food is good. It is such a pleasant place to sit. Luckily, however, the food is also very good.

But the best part is the music afterwards. Eduardo and Maria, the husband and wife who run the place, are terrific musicians and he plays guitar and harmonica and primarily sings music from Spain, Cuba and Brazil (with some American Jazz thrown in) while she accompanies him on percussion. Last night she even did a flamenco dance. She was apparently quite a dancer in her youth. They encourage the guests to participate by playing various percussion instruments and Ben sat himself next to a great little drum and was so good at it that they invited him to stay and learn Spanish music with them if he wanted. The music was so fantastic that most of us got up and danced to the Spanish music they played after their live performance. Alex and Peter from Risho Maru are the best dancers I have seen since 30 years ago when I first saw Auntie Lillie and Uncle Benje dance. Very great place and a nice goodbye party for Ben.

La Paella

La Paella

La Paella

Thursday October 18- Despite the fact that up to last night at 10.00 P.M. we could not get the airlines here to tell us whether Ben was reconfirmed for his flight, or, in fact, what time the flight was supposed to depart, we got a taxi to the airport this afternoon and without too much of a wait, Ben was off to Fiji and hopefully by tomorrow will be in California. It is apparently quite normal here for people to find out at the last minute that their flight has either left earlier than scheduled, or several hours after the scheduled time.

We have to thank our friend Kelley Smith in Providence for contacting Air Fiji and getting us the info we needed for Ben’s return flight home. It was simply not possible to get any reliable info from here – so thanks a million Kelley!! We also were helped by Jason, a great guy at the Aquarium Cafe, who is one of the most pleasant peope you can imagine. Jason and his sister Lisa moved here from California last year and besides serving food at the Aquarium cafe they arrange tours, manage an internet cafe, and assist the sea of sailers here with practically anything you can imagine.

So now it is back to just Mark and me on the boat – and it will just be a few weeks before we set off for our last big sail of the year – Tonga to New Zealand. Quite a few sailers have already left and within the next few weeks this place will clear out completely as the season of tropical cyclones is fast approaching.


Tonga – unstable weather and reliable friends

We spent all day Tuesday on the boat in anchorage #11 as it was
cloudy and rainy all day long. Peter and Finn from Risho Maru
were not feeling well, so we didn’t even visit with them.
Miserable weather. By Wednesday it started to clear – at least
it did not rain much – so Ben and I had a swim around our boat
with Risho Maru. Now it was Mark’s turn to feel crappy, so he
just rested while Ben and I went over to Vera for an afternoon
coffee and cake, and then to some other boats in the anchorages
for quick hellos. The dreary weather was getting everyone down.
We have all been planning to move to another anchorage for a
“Pirates Party” with several other boats, but really needed to
have a bit of sunshine to do that. Finally on Thursday the
clouds cleared enough for us all to make a safe passage to
anchorage #30. It was only about an hour away (motoring), but
to get to the anchorage you have to pass through a number of
shallow reefs so it is important to have some visibility. I
stood up on the boom for a better view, while Ben sat in his
rope chair on the bow that he made, and Mark steered us around
the reefs. We followed close behind Risho Maru while French
friends on another boat, “Galdus” followed close behind.

Pirate's party

Some other friends have been here for a few days already and had
prepared a nice area up on a hill on the small island here for
the pirate’s party and barbecue. Several of the boats have young
kids and there were a few games planned for them, including a
treasure hunt. There were also some silly games for the adults.
Everyone dressed up as pirates (corny, but fun) and brought
good stuff to grill and there were also lots of fresh salads,
fruit and other good things to eat. It was a nice group – and
it was fun for us to have Ben with us for another party. He is
such a natural shmoozer and it is clear that all of friends have
become very fond of him – particularly Alex, Peter and Finn from
Risho Maru. The views from the party site were gorgeaus –
crashing waves on the high cliffs – and we spent the whole
afternoon and evening up there. When we went back to the beach
about 8:00 P.M. to go back to the boat we found that everyone’s
dinghy was there except ours. When we arrived at the party some
hours earlier we had tied it to our friend Vera’s dinghy – and
had not dropped an anchor in the sand as we usually do. In the
meantime Vera had had to go back to their own boat to get
something and had tied us up to someone else. Apparently that
other person had subsequently moved their dinghy and had either
not tied us up to anything or had not tied us up properly. It
was not a good feeling. If you lose your dinghy here you really
have no way to get to shore or to explore places – like losing
your car in a place without buses or taxis. We hiked back up to
the party to tell our friends that our dinghy was gone and
within minutes 3 other dinghies were all in the water helping us
find ours. Mark was with Peter and within just a few minutes
they found it washed up on the reef. Luckily nothing was damaged
and Mark drove it back to our boat and tied it up nice and
secure. Phew!

Today, Friday, we finally had the sun back. Hooray. It is really
beautiful here when the sun shines. We took our dinghy out to a
few areas to try snorkeling – and found crystal clear water –
but unfortunately the coral here is mostly either dead or it is
very new coral – and therefore there are not very many fish. It
was still great to be in the beautiful blue water with the sun
shining overhead. Now Ben and Mark are up on deck reading while
I am writing this. Tonight there is going to be another
barbecue – and all the musically inclined people here will be
singing and playing. Ben will be drumming on some borrowed drums.

Sunny Tonga with Son Ben

We have been having so much fun with Ben these past 5 days that
it has been impossible to write. The sun came out a few days
earlier than forecast and suddenly we were back in paradise.
Really amazing how Tonga went from feeling kind of dreary and
dull to vibrant and sunny and beautiful. We snorkeled with Ben
at our first anchorage ( #8) and had nice walks along the
beautiful beach there. Big fruit bats came out at sunset and
swooped over the mango trees. A boat came by selling fruit and
we were able to get a few papayas and limes to replenish our
store of food. Then we sailed over to anchorage #16, the Coral
Gardens. We only spent a day there but managed to fit in
several snorkels and two boat parties. Sora, a boat we have seen
many times over the past six months, has a young woman named
Cassie on it – as well as her two parents. Cassie spent a whole
year sailing with just her dad, and her mom joined them in
Tahiti just a few months ago. They invited us over for a party
on their boat along with some young people from other boats –
including a guy from the boat Caca Fuego (shitfire!) and Rick
and Courtney from Guava Jelly. In the middle of the party we
heard a call on the VHF from a neighboring boat, Tahaa, calling
for help as they thought that Irie, the boat next to them , was
dragging. Everyone on board Sora lept into their dinghies to
find the folks on Irie and to stop the boat if it was really
dragging. It turned out to be a false alarm – the boat was
secure, but had just drifted in a circle around its anchor as
the wind calmed down. It turned out to be a very nice evening
and Ben had a good time visiting with Cassie (who is very cute).
Later in the evening we sat on our deck with Ben and watched the
southern hemisphere stars in their full glory.

The next day Cassie joined us for a great snorkel on the
outside of the reef – the water was deep and very clear – with
amazing coral . Lots of fun.

Tongan feast

We then sailed over to another
anchorage – #11, which is the site of a Saturday night Tongan
Feast. We found our friends Quest at the same anchorage and
went to the feast together. It was great fun – with about 40
people there from other boats. A group of Tongan men were
seated on mats around a big bowl of kava and played and sang
Tongan music. Everyone who wanted to participate in the kava was
welcome to, so Ben, Mark and I all had a couple of cups (we are
still not sure what the effect of kava is supposed to be, but it
is fun trying it out). It rained hard for a while, but we were
dry under the thatched roof hut. Then the “formal
entertainment” started which consisted of Tongan dancing
performed by 10 Tongan schoolchildren. They were adorable and
energetic and it was great – Ben took some great photos. About
8:00 they served the feast which was a very traditional Tongan
meal – served on banana leaves and on various natural plates
such as coconut shells. Everything was eaten with your hands.
Tongan feast

There were several kinds of fish and lots of cassava, sweet
potato, cooked banana, and other starchy things. Ben wasn’t too
thrilled with the food, but Mark and I enjoyed it a lot. We had
a great time talking with Denise and Pierre from Quest.

Yesterday our friends from Risho Maru joined us in the
anchorage. It was a stunning day and Ben started wind-surfing
lessons from Peter. They started out with Ben practicing
standing on the board and getting pulled by a rope attached to
Peter’s dinghy – just like water-skiing, but on a wind-surfing
board. Ben took a few good falls and then got the hang of it and
was skiing all around the anchorage.

One of our heads stopped working and Mark decided it was time to
bite the bullet and put in the replacement macerator and pump.
Not the kind of job that one does unless absolutely necessary.
It ended up taking him the better part of the day – a real pain
in the you know what – but by 4:00 he had successfully installed
the new parts and the head (toilet) is now as good as new.
Hooray for Mark!

In the evening we went out to a restaurant on the beach here –
La Paella – which serves a fantastic paella dinner and also has
live Spanish music. We went with Denise and Pierre (who was
celebrating his 48th birthday) – and 3 bottles of wine – and had
a really fun evening. The food was great and plentiful, with a
beautiful cool breeze blowing through the thatched restaurant,
and a nice view out to the anchorage. The pet goat and dog kept
wandering around the restaurant – adding a great deal of raw
humour to the evening as the goat was a male and the dog a
female, and the goat was apparently quite a lusty guy. The goat
and the dog kept circling each other while the Spanish guitarist
(the owner) and his wife sang beautiful Spanish and Portuguese
songs. We had so much fun. We ended the night sitting on our
deck watching the stars again.

Today Mark had to do some work – “professor” work, not boat work
— so he stayed on the boat while Ben and I took a taxi into
town to do some grocery shopping and internet stuff. The taxi
driver was so great – we had to stop at so many stores to get
everything we needed – including the fresh fruit market, the
bank, the gas station, the curry man, a grocery store, the
bakery, the Aquarium cafe (where Ben was doing internet) and
best of all, ‘Pete the Meat” – the guy who collects trash 3 days
a week, and sells ‘high quality’ meat the other days. Taxis
here are very inexpensive and convenient and we were really glad
to stock up on supplies as we were running out of anything good
to eat and now we will be spending time at anchorages that don’t
have either stores or restaurants. The time is going by way
too quickly – there is so much more to see and do with Ben, but
he only has another 9 days with us. Maybe we can talk him into


First week in Tonga with Ben

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Ben on the beach at anchorage #8

It has been a week since we updated the blog. We blame it
on Ben, whose presence has distracted us a great deal. He
arrived on time last Thursday morning. More on that later.

The weather turned rainy and overcast the day before Ben
arrived and has stayed that way every day since, except for
yesterday. The evening before Ben arrived we had a table at the
Wednesday night buffet BBQ at the Dancing Rooster, a
Swiss-Tongan restaurant on the waterfront. We sat with all the
Austrians – Risho Maru, Nautilus (belonging to Ronnie, a
single-hander, who had a friend, Wolfgang, from Vienna
visiting), and Tahaa. Other tables had lots of our boat friends
from all over. The food and drink were good and plentiful. A
very strong squall blew through and it rained hard during the
meal but we were lucky to have one of the more sheltered tables
under the thatched roof of the outdoor dining area. After
dinner, Laura went to the attached karaoke bar to sing Nancy
Sinatra’s “These Boots are Made for Walking” to the delight of
me and Ronnie, who were the only ones in the karaoke area.

Getting home from dinner was difficult because the squall
played havoc with the dinghy dock. Our dinghy was far from
where we left it. We discovered that it had either been untied
or had come loose. It did not head out to sea only because it
had become entangled with the line of another dinghy. It was
also full of water. The squall had much more severe effects on
boats in the anchorages outside of Neiafu. At least one boat
went aground, and our South African friends on Robyn’s Nest told
us that they dragged into deep water with two anchors deployed
and had a very difficult time recovering the anchors and getting
the boat under control in 40-50 knots of wind and driving rain.
I worried a bit about Sabbatical III since we were tied to a
mooring of unknown provenance. We were not sure if the mooring
was a rental from a reputable owner, such as Aquarium, or a
derelict private mooring. We took it because it was the only
one that we could find in the harbor. The other moorings in the
harbor belong to the Moorings boat charter company and are not
for rent. But these have bright orange pick-ups, while ours did
not, so we did not think that likely. Boats that did take a
Mooring mooring were soon kicked off by a Mooring Company
launch. We joked to ourselves that someone would tell us to
immediately leave the mooring just as we were going to pick up
Ben from the airport.

Just as we were leaving to pick up Ben at the airport,
someone in a launch knocked on the hull and said that we were on
a mooring that belonged to the Moorings Company. I couldn’t
believe it. We had a taxi waiting on shore to take us to the
airport. I called the boss at Moorings Charter on the VHF
radio and he said it was not a problem if we stayed as they did
not need the mooring right away but asked me to stop by his
office and pay for it.

We booked Roadrunner Taxi to take us to the airport, wait for
the flight arrival, and then take us back to the dinghy dock at
the Aquarium Cafe. While waiting outside the very small airport
building, we struck up a conversation with an older couple who
were waiting to depart Vava’u, Tonga. They said that they had
been visiting their son who was on a sail boat in Fiji, and that
they were Mexican. We told them that we were friends with the
Mexican boat “Iataia” and that is indeed the boat of their son
Mark. We had anchored right next to Iataia first in Hiva Oa,
then in Nuku Hiva, and had last talked with them while doing the
check-out in Papeete.

Ben looked great and did not seem at all tired from his long
sequence of flights. As we dinghied back to the boat, we
stopped at a number of boats along the way to introduce Ben.
We had lunch at the Aquarium with Alex, Peter, and Finn of Risho
Maru, and with Regine and Girard from Galdus. The next day we
walked through town and bought fruit at the market. The poor
weather forced us to change plans and spend much more time in
Neiafu than we had hoped. It was not only rainy but cold with
night time temperatures in the high 60s which seemed frosty to
Laura and me. We spent a lot of time socializing inside of
boats because of the rain. We had Risho Maru and the American
boat Magmum (with Uwe, Anne, and 5 year old Kara) over for
sundowners. The next night we had a Seinfeld party with Risho
Maru. Another night, we had a great dinner on Risho Maru capped
with a couple of bowls of kava. On one afternoon when the rain
was only light, we joined with Risho Maru, Magnum, and Galdus
for a hike up to the peak overlooking Neiafu harbor. It was a
lot of fun and Ben got lots of attention from 5 year old Kara
and 7 year old Finn. Gerard and Regine from Galdus said that
they have never met Americans who spoke French as well as Laura
and Ben. Gerard and Regine, Bretons with a 39 foot Ovni
aluminum monohull, are doing their second circumnavigation.
Their first was 25 years ago.

Yesterday (Tuesday), we finally saw some sun. Ben and I
took the dinghy in to pay Moorings and look for eggs (there were
none since the farmer failed to deliver). By 10 am we were on
our way out of the harbor and picked up good winds of 20+ knots
out of the ESE. We sailed to Kapa Island and anchored near the
strait that separates Kapa from Nuku Island, otherwise known as
anchorage number 8. We found three boats here already – Chica
Bonita, Southern Cross, and Rasa Manis – all friends of ours.
With the emergence of the sun there was a mass exodus from the
sheltered confines of Neiafu harbor. Within a couple of hours
there were 14 boats at anchor off Kapa/Nuku Island, most of the
newcomers to the anchorage were also friends, including
Priscilla, Special Blend, Irie, Guava Jelly, Robyn’s Nest,
Asylum, Magnum, and Sisu. Our first snorkel in Tonga was along
the southern edge of Nuku Island where there were lots of fish
and fairly clear water (although nothing beats Suvarov for
clear). The water is significantly cooler than anything we have
experienced since the Galapagos, another sign that we were
getting into the high latitudes.

In the evening there was an ad hoc barbeque and potluck on
the beach of Kapa Island. Jim of Special Blend reprised his
starring role of cook established at Suvarov. Tom of Rasa Manis
sang the his old sailing song with the “G-d damn them all”
refrain that he sang in Suvarov, but this time in honor of Tom
and Susie of Priscilla, who were leaving for New Caledonia
today. They will spend the hurricane season in Australia,
rather than New Zealand like the rest of us, so none of us will
see them for awhile. After dinner, there was improvised music
from Christian (Irie) on mandolin, Tom (Rasa Manis) on harmonica
and vocals, Scott (Robyn’s Nest) and Jim (Asylum) on guitar, and
Ellen (Rasa Manis) on percussion.

The good weather lasted less than one day. Late last night
rain and squalls returned and the entire day today was overcast
with a mixture of drizzle and squalls. Robyn’s Nest decided to
delay their departure for Fiji, and instead invited Ben to join
them for a visit to Mariner’s Cave on Nuapapu Island. Ben
jumped into Robyn’s Nest as John expertly maneuvered her up to
our dinghy tied up behind Sabbatical III. Besides John (South
Africa), the Robyn’s Nest crew includes Chris (US), Scott (South
Africa), Lucy (France), and Dave (South Africa), John’s nephew.
The age range is 17 to 30 years. Ben wore Laura’s foul weather
coat over my full-body swim skin to keep warm. They had trouble
finding the entrance to the cave, which is underwater and has no
external markings. To get in, one has to dive about 2 meters
down and then go through a 4 meter tunnel that opens into a
chamber. Ben reports that the most interesting thing was
observing the effect of air pressure on the moisture holding
capacity of air. As a swell came up, the air in the chamber
would pressurize so much that he felt it in his ears, and the
air was clear. As the swell fell, the air pressure would fall
and there would immediately be thick fog that dramatically
limited vision. After Ben returned in the afternoon, we watched
a movie and then took advantage of a lull in the rain to walk on
the beach. The weather forecast is pretty bleak as a low
pressure weather system is just parked over Tonga and Fiji, but
we are hoping for the best.