June , 24th.2013

Sailing in the northern Vava'u

Chart of northern Vava'u

Neiafu Harbour

 group of islands is a wonderful experience. These islands offer everything : Beauty, variety, pristine and gorgeous coloured waters to swim and snorkel in, walks, villages to visit and safe anchorages and moorings in protected coves. In fact for us it is like a holiday – people say the distances are so short between destinations there is hardly time to put the sails up before you have to bring them down again! We have had some great sailing recently and have some more overnights coming up so it suits us well. Also this area is very challenging with all the reefs to avoid so this more than keeps us on the alert.
The area is basically unspoiled with only a few restaurants throughout the different isands.

The following are the anchorages and moorings we visit:
Port Mourelle (Kapa Island)
This very attractive anchorage is  protected, and for these reasons is very popular. We take the dinghy ashore for a long walk which leads up to a village. A very welcoming woman invites us in over a stile near a large gate to keep out stock but we felt a bit intrusive on their early evening, even though we spot a well kept cricket pitch.
We are excited to find an Aussie boat anchored next to us and enjoy exchanging experiences over drinks on their yacht.
We are looking forward to trying out Di’s dry ginger recipe. Their brew is delicious and very refreshing.
We have a visit from Graham from a nearby yacht. He is looking for details from one of our sister ships, Sweet Chariot. We know they are still in the Med.

 Hunga Island
We pass through Faihava passage outside to the Pacific Ocean and track down the west coast of Hunga Island.
We have to enter the very narrow entrance at high tide to come in over the reef. There is also a dangerous rock in the centre of this but it is easily visible. The lagoon here is unique because it is completely surrounded by islands and reef and so is very calm and protected.

Coming into Hungar Is. mooring

Mooring at Hunga Island

There is a well established fishing resort here but unfortunately we arrive too  late to book for dinner. There are no guests here now which is disappointing for Caroline and Steve but due to disruptions with the domestic airlines their regular guests, and   others, are unable to get here reliably. This problem is affecting the area generally which is great for us because it is so quiet everywhere, but disastrous for the local economy, especially with their limited tourist season.

Ika Lahi fishing Resort

View over the lagoon, with Impulsive

We have a lovely experience going ashore. An elderly woman comes to speak with us as do a group of local children. They organize some pamplemousse for us before we head off on a long walk through the rain forest. This is a lovely walk, especially when we come across two local families coming back from picnicking and swimming, and they stop for a chat.

Hand woven basket filled with fruit
Ross takes some goodies back for the elderly woman. She is looking for panadol for her aches and pains and we include some food packages. She gives us a basket filled with the fruit we buy from the children.
We see a turtle off the back of the boat. Apparently Caroline and Steve used to feed them papaya by hand until they realized the local people were taking advantage of the turtles trust and harpooning them so they resist feeding them now.
Caroline and Steve invite us ashore for drinks in their well set up lodge. They have a special haven here, having come here thirteen years ago from New Zealand to set up their business. Steve has world class fishing here eg with marlin. Caroline grows all their vegetables and produce she can.
Snorkeling just of the stern of the boat in beautiful clear waters is idyllic.

Leaving Hunga Island - a very narrow passage

Blue Lagoon
We have a good start to the day with freshly squeezed juice from the mandarins we were given yesterday afternoon, in a hand made woven pandanas basket.
It is a short motor to arrive at this spectacular anchorage. The raymarine GPS is totally unreliable so we use our sight and polaroid sunglasses to come in past the few rocks and reefs. Fortunately it is a clear, sunny day.

The Blue Lagoon

It is a joy to be here with the picturesque scenery which is enhanced by the exquisite colours of the sea from turquoise through to pale aqua. Also there is a lovely patch of snorkeling. We have several hours to paint and sketch which we both enjoy very much. I’m sure it helps me remember the place better.

Lape Island
This island advertises its market on the net this morning so we track over and pick up one of its moorings. They find this is better than having to go into the market at Neiafu. It is a delightful set
up with its thatched rotunda by the water. The women have weaved  many pandanus baskets and there is some of their produce, sarongs and jewelery made from the local coral. A young girl escorts us into their small village of 32 people, 16 adults and 16 children. They are very independent here
with subsistence lifestyle. The village and its gardens are well cared for.

Avalau Island
We anchor at this island which is said to be the “island that has everything”. The weather is perfect and there is only one other yacht here. The 2 young men with their 2 dogs are having a weekend away because their partners had a weekend function elsewhere. They are both living and working in Neiafu so are interesting to talk with. We will probably see them when we return to Neiafu.
We enjoy the peace and tranquility of this island, its beauty especially when we go ashore with its rainforest and lovely white coral beach, and the snorkeling over the large coral head here.
Again there is time to paint.
The morning sked is very sad this morning. The vessel Nina, a 70 ft. schooner with 8 people on board has been missing for  some time. It was last heard of June 4th. when they were caught up in a huge storm out of N.Z. with 26ft waves and winds gusting up to 6o kts. There have been air and navy searches for some time and they are now assuming the vessel has sunk. This is a particularly chilling time for all yachties.

Kenutu Island
Ross has planned our passage from the west side out to the exposed east side while the forecast is favourable with light winds. The easterly winds are against us but will be coming up stronger from the east in 2 days time. Also it is sunny so easier to spot reefs and rocks through these 2 difficult passages.
Anchored at Kenutu Island is very peaceful and has an excellent holding. It is lovely listening to birds which we can hear from the yacht. A couple on a yacht anchored some distance from us has taken a parasail out to a nearby sandy cay and are having a great time with the winds coming in off the Pacific Ocean.

Kenutu Island

We can walk the length of this small island when the tide is out along a beautiful white beach lined with rainforest. There are interesting pools at low tide. At each end between this island and the closely situated neighbouring islands we can watch the waves crashing  in from the Pacific Ocean. It is a spectacular sight.

Ofu Island
The wind is forecast to increase from the east this evening so we track back through the first pass and then north to Ofu  Island on its west side. We can anchor in 6 m. water just off the village and there is good protection here.
This anchorage is very attractive. The village is built along the line of the beach with a well tended grass path lined with many planted tropical plants in front of all the buildings. We wonder if we have come ashore during siesta time as the village is not very lively. We see a family fixing the one truck on the island and they suggest the women may be weaving (for the pandana baskets etc.) and the men in the forest behind dealing with the husbandry. We see many piglets running about freely.
The children are on school holidays so it is surprising not to see them out playing. One man sitting on a seat to watch the sunset tells us many people from the village have gone to Neiafu on their boats today.
We see many pandanas cuttings in the shallow waters. They only take a few days to shoot and then are planted elsewhere.

Tapana Island and Pangaimotu Island ( moored in the bay off the southern tip of Pangaimotu Island)

Aerial view of pass between the 2 islands

The Ark Gallery
Strong winds are forecast again so we come inside the second reef today to moor on a buoy at the floating Ark Gallery at the southern tip of Pangaimotu Island. The gallery is run by Sheri, the artist, and her husband Larry who organizes their 5 moorings and the boats as they come in. They have been living here for 15 years and have set up their own little paradise.
Walking along the eastern side of the island we realize how protected this anchorage is as the strong easterlies blow in across this narrow strip of the island.
We only plan to stay here one night but because of the forecast, and we enjoy it so much, we stay for 3.
Putting out stern mooring line
One evening we cross the small passage in our dinghy to Tapana Island. We wear our bathers and change on the beach when we arrive there to walk up to La Paella restaurant. We just catch a glimpse of the wonderful view before dark.

La Paella Restaurant

The Spanish couple who own this restaurant have been here many years now and present us with delicious traditional Spanish cuisine accompanied by the husband playing the guitar and singing.
Also on the moorings are Roy, from Ireland, and Sal and John from Townsville. We are always excited to see the Aussie flag.
Roy’s partner is meeting him again in Fiji. He spends time with Ross fixing the furling line jammer, which has been fixed once before so we hope it holds. Sal and John are retired vet’s and give us advice on dressing Ross’ finger in its final stages of healing, and add to our chart system.
Today is American Independence Day and also, more importantly in this area it is the day of recognizing the King of Tonga’s birthday, so is a public holiday and everything is closed. This doesn’t affect us out here but we plan to go to one of the Tongan celebratory feasts as part of the festivities.

Friday, 5th. July
We enjoy this time of relaxation and are now ready to move on again. We sail most of the way with the headsail up and have winds south-east to east gusting up to 30 kts. as 2 fronts come through with rain, even though the forecast is for them to lighten up. It is overcast today which we are not used to !
Unfortunately the furling jammer broke again, but we are pleased to have a new one ordered and Ross has something else that will do the job in the meantime. This starts off a chapter of accidents. The  car for the headsail sheet track broke off in a squall and we are lucky it didn’t break a window, and the anchor winch handle flips overboard while we anchor at Vauleleva Bay. This is the third thing and luckily nothing is dramatically serious.
Tongan Beach Resort is near this anchorage but isn’t serving dinner tonight (probably resting after celebrations last night), so we just go in on the dinghy to have a look and a walk. Dinner on board is  getting down to our last fresh veges and salad dinner. The provisioning has been very limited here but fortunately we still have some fish in the freezer.
This is a very calm anchorage but the anchor chain drags over an old coral reef even though we are in 7 m. of water. It makes a very loud grumbling noise so we sleep in the stern cabin.

Saturday, 6th. July
Lape Island
We sail with the headsail up with winds up to 20ks. threading our way between many small islands. It is very pleasant having breakfast in the sun in the cockpit as we track towards Lape Island. We are returning here to go ashore for their Tongan feast this evening. We are fortunate to get the last of 5 moorings, and are pleased to see so many boats arrive for this function. The islanders are having this charity function to raise funds for their children’s education and to build some toilets.

Di and Ken on Platinum are already here so we enjoy catching up with them again. They spend a great deal of time on these islands helping the women fix their sewing machines. This is a marvelous and positive  way to help these people, who are so grateful.

There are 13 boats moored or anchored off this small island. Everyone goes ashore at 4pm for a tour of the island and its facilities ( there aren't many) to see what the islanders daily life is like. Their gardens and vege gardens are well tended. This is followed by a magnificent Tongan feast. The  islanders have gone to so much trouble with the pig on the spit and many salads including delicious seafood. It is all beautifully presented. Our plates were made from banana plant trunks – very practical and attractive. There is music and some dancing. The few showers that pass are no problem.

Tour of the island
The school

Stripping pandanas leaves
The Tongan children enjoy playing with the younger children and babies

The feast

Sunday 7th. July
Waking up this morning I thought I saw a yacht's mast pass by our cabin's starboard porthole. I mentioned it to Ross  and we decided when we couldn't see Platinum moored just behind us as they had been we decided they must have changed plans and left early. In fact they had broken free of their mooring and were so lucky because they had just got up and could take the boat out to anchor. It would have been a different scenario if it had happened during the night!
We are invited ashore for the church service at 10am today. This is a wonderful occassion especially with all their joyful singing, as it was last night. The islanders are all dressed in their "Sunday best". The little girls look gorgeous in their pretty dresses and their hair done with brightly coloured clips and ribbons.  The men are wearing their special white tapa wraps.
Dressed for Church

Playing after Church, with Di

Later in the day Ken opens the CPN program on our Dell computer. We are very grateful for his help, and later for Di's lesson on using it. This system should be a great asset in Fiji with all its reefs.
During the afternoon I have a lovely snorkel off the back of James and Lesley's boat with Lesley and Di. There is some interesting coral and a great variety of beautiful fish.
We cast off the mooring in time to track around to Hunga Is. to get into the fishing resort at high tide. We come into an amazing site - a large cat is beached right in front of Steve and Caroline's fishing retreat. Apparently the prop anodes have been neglected for some time and the prop is damaged.They are hoping to be able to fix this up on the beach but unfortunately it isn't possible and they are trying to get her off on this high tide.

The beached "cat"
We have a lovely and delicious dinner here and enjoy talking to Steve and Caroline more about this area. A highlight is Steve's freshly caught mai-mai as sashimi.

This morning we are up early to leave on the high tide for Neiafu. We need to prepare for our sail to Fiji. We have organised for the shipwrights we met at one of the islands to help us with a few minor issues, organise for refuelling and checkout, provisioning and the complicated forms we have to send at least 2 days ahead to check in at Fiji.

Favourite recipe this leg:

Provisioning this trip has been challenging because usually I plan menus ahead but here we have to just use the available ingredients eg veges and fruits in season which is an excellent way to eat but there is not much variety.

Red tuna with ratatouille:
Barb-e-qued red tuna, marinated in lime juice
Serve with black bean sauce, wild rice and green salad ( tomatoes are difficult to get here)
Ratatouille – lightly brown 2 cloves of garlic
                     add a sliced Spanish onion and cook until opaque
                     add sliced zucchini, wetted and sliced eggplant, can of diced tomatoes
                    add one and a half cups of vege. stock, bring to boil and simmer until  
cooked and tender

Alan helps Ross with the few boat issues eg checking the engine, tightening the fan belts, changing the engine oil, checking the generator, the toilets, and the dinghy bung. He is a very competent operator.

Apparently to check into Fiji, our next destination, we need to send our forms at least 24 hours ahead of our arrival. Lisa in the Tropicana café supplies this service so we spend time there. The forms are extensive including requiring a photo of the boat. The weather is overcast with periodic heavy downpours so we also take advantage of Lisa’s washing and drying service which is excellent for the sheets and towels. Drying these on board in this weather would be very tiresome and difficult. The wi-fi connection here is very efficient to catch up with emails and the blog.

We order some of Lisa’s home made lasagna to pick up tomorrow which will be very handy for dinner on Impusive tomorow night, especially if it is a bit rough as forecast.
The fish market will have no fish available until net Saturday so we are pleased to still have a few serves in the freezer.
Tonight we plan to have dinner where we can skype with Scott, Jeanette and Oliver when he is awake. He is an adorable baby boy, and makes Alexander look much older. It is school holidays there so Augusta and Lily are sleeping in!

The locally caught lobster here is delicious and is cheaper than Australia.

Tuesday, 9th. July
We are hoping to fit in a trip to the Botanic Gardens this morning but realize we haven’t time. Also there are many torrential downpours and we hear later the tour was cancelled due to the weather.
We have really enjoyed our time in Tonga and have met many lovely people and caught up with fellow sailors we have met previously. These people are from all over the world and chances are we will meet up again somewhere – we hope so.
There are potential problems leaving today (the forecast is for a bumpy trip for the first night) but it looks better than leaving on Wednesday. It is also better than deferring our departure as we probably wouldn’t get reliable trade winds until next week.
It is very quiet and easy to tie up at the dock for refueling and our checkout appointment. The refueling goes smoothly and then out of nowhere comes a heavy squall with strong winds pushing us up against the dock. Apart from the general safety of the boat we have the added problem of the support bracket for the new spinaker pole holder which protrudes slightly out beyond the gunnel. Ross borrows a very large fender from nearby workmen and then runs ashore to ask customs and immigration to clear us out so we can leave. Fortunately they agree to this even though the port captain isn’t available and they waiver his $100- fee. This all takes time so I adjust fenders appropriately and find a large pack of bubble wrap to protect the bracket. There is a yacht in front of, and behind us and we are all concerned as we watch the large inter island ferry approaching but fortunately it doesn’t seem to make much wash. This is all happening in another heavy downpour of rain.
Ross runs back and insists we have to leave the dock which is very challenging especially with the boats so close in front and behind us. Using the bowthruster is a great aid and having Ross and two other men helping to push off is very helpful. The problem is being able to turn the boat out from the yacht very close in front of impulsive but without hitting our stern on the dock. We give the people on the yacht in front a few worrying moments but then we are all relieved when we are free of the dock.
The weather quietens down as we are protected coming out through the islands, and then we head out on a course of   260T just south of west for Fiji. This trip should take 3 overnight sails so we arrive on Friday morning.
We have good wind on the beam so have both sails up until we are just out of the islands and then the wind drops out. After about 2 hours, when we are wondering if we will have to motor the whole way with just half the of the mainsail up the winds come up again close to the beam and up to 17 kts. The seas are rolly with a couple of metres swell, so it is bumpy as Bruce forecast, but we don’t get the squalls that are first predicted. We motor sail with both sails and the engine just ticking over to give us an extra kt. in speed averaging 6.5 kts. This holds right through to Wednesday at noon when we can sail.
Ross saw just one vessel pass by us last night when he was on night watch.

Wednesday, 10th. July
At 10.30am we are startled by a loud engine noise nearby. We soon realize it is a plane which flies very low over us and they call us on the radio. It is a visit from the New Zealand air patrol and they take all our details including our destination and ETA. It’s quite comforting they know where we are and what our plans are.
We sail through the rest of the day and all through the night with steady winds reducing from 22-18 kts down to 15-18 kts.
 We sail until 5am Thursday morning when we motor sail with lighter winds through the Omeata Pass. The wind comes around behind us so mid morning  we put out the spinaker pole with the headsail out to prepare to track 295 to starboard to Savu Savu.
Sailing again on this lovely sunny morning with settled seas we can see some of the Lau Islands as we track to Fiji. We planned to visit these islands on our way through but the authorities say you must check in at Savu Savu first. We have heard from many people if you just arrive at the Lau Islands you incur a huge fine and have a very difficult time with customs. This is a pity because it is a beautiful area apparently but it is too far to come back 150 n.miles.
We try to get permission to visit the Loyalty Islands by joining the Island Cruising Assoc. in New Zealand to come with a rally but their timing doesn’t suit our schedule.
We are still having a great deal of pleasure from our large anthurium pot plant we bought in Raiatea. It just keeps flowering. Also the basil plant seems to be happy at sea too.

We motor sail most of today with the engine just ticking over to maintain the boat speed. It is a lovely balmy afternoon in the cockpit for reading, and later it is still calm enough to enjoy having dinner out there with the new moon appearing and the thousands of stars starting to lighten up the sky.
We motor sail with calm conditions through the night and arrive  in Fiji late morning Friday as Ross planned with our departure time from Tonga.

Society Islands to Tonga -verse

23rd. June 2013

Now at last Impulsive is ready to go
The jobs are finally done
The provisioning`s in and the fridges work
We`re back for some tropical fun

The helm is taken by Ian and Ruth
As we chart a figure of eight
Around Raiatea and Tahaa`s lagoon
Whose numerous pleasures await

There`s the Nao nao anchorage
There’s Alain`s vanilla tour
The coral gardens snorkeling
The Vahine resort island lure

 We eat local fruits and the winds are fair
And ignoring some trivial faults
When the test is done by Ian and Ruth
They discover that they are old salts

The new prop arrives and we`re off again
To a special, familiar bay
Of the Bora Bora yacht club
It`s one of our favorite stays

Maupiti`s pass can have breaking waves
To guard this tropical gem
We get in early and hire some bikes
And ride and walk and swim
(Note the Kiwi influence here)

There are pretty light winds to Palmerston
And we manage to break a pole
So it`s fun at the end when we just miss the trough
To scurry home fast to our goal

We tie to a buoy in an easterly breeze
And Simon takes us ashore 
For the tour of the island, a wonderful lunch
 And back to Impulsive once more

It’s a calm, unhurried existence here
But what if the family falls out
With Marsters descendents at loggerheads?
There`s not much escape space about

We have plenty of good wind to Niue
20 knots ensures well filled sails
We`re welcomed by Keith at the Niue yacht club
Ira`s gentle charm there prevails

In fact gentle charm prevails everywhere here
Each meeting and chat is a pleasure
If you wander in to the Office of Lands
The Registrar there is at leisure

We set off for Tonga before the big swell
Makes sleeping and landing too tough
The sea is quite smooth and the moon is full
With a south wind that`s just enough

For a day and a half of sailing pleasure.

June 23 2013