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.