We've been to a number of anchorages around Neiafu. The Moorings Yacht Charter fleet puts numbers on most all of the anchorages in Vava'u; it's easier to just say "I'm at anchorage 16" than to mispronounce the Tongan name for these places! There are 42 anchorages in the Moorings Guide; some are only day anchorages, some are good for overnight stays. Most are exposed to winds out of one quadrant or another, so careful attention to the wx is important. Last Sunday we went to church in Neiafu and heard the most amazing choir singing. We had been told by another yachtie that it's the best singing in the South Pacific, and we can believe it. I tape recorded most of it, and hope to be able to transfer the music to this blog at some point. We moved over to anchorage 16, then went to Lape Island (anchorage 17) and met some of the villagers from the small population of 21 people (including the children) and bought some handicrafts from a delightful couple. We then went across to Matamaka (anchorage 15), a village on Nuapapu Island, where we are running the watermaker and preparing lunch.
An unfortunate event occurred a few months back off Palmerston Island, located in the southern Cook Islands. A sister-ship of Infini, another Westsail 43 named RiRi, had her mooring pennant break and she ended up a total loss on the reef just offshore Palmerston. RiRi's owner, a fellow named Frank Conway, is here in Vava'u, enroute to NZ aboard another cruiser's boat. We purchased our new (RiRi's previous) staysail from Frank. It was made by North Sails in Feb. of this year, has three battens and two reefs, as well as adjustment lines all around. It's typical North Sails quality, and a much better cut and in much better condition (it's essentially new) than our previous one. We hope to put on many more miles on her; thanks, Frank.
We've moved over to a mooring closer to the village; the dinghy ride back and forth was a wet one, and we had wrapped a coral head pretty good as well. So...there's a wx trough hovering over Neiafu, and it's been rainy for days. Last night we watched a BBC documentary film presented by the film's maker/producer about the island Tanna, which is in Vanuatu. There are lots of (expensive) bars and restaurants here, very slow internet, and services are available to yachties who need them, such as refrigeration repair, sail repair, etc. There's also a Mooring's Yacht Charter base here, and whale watching tours are popular (albeit, pricey) diversions. We've seen many whales on passage here, but have been a bit too far away for good pictures. Although not our idea of a long term place to stay, Vava'u is another sticky place, and some folks end up spending cyclone season here. We've seen a lot of our friends here, all planning on going on to Australia, Fiji or NZ.
Team Infini is safely anchored in Vava'u. We chose not to take a mooring, but are across the bay from the village of Neiafu. We had to motor in head seas in order to make our heading, or we'd still be out there tacking around, with yet more miserable weather on the way. As it is, we turned on the Perkins, finally dropped all sails, and entered the anchorage here in Vava'u at about 12 noon. Most of the anchoring areas are taken up by mooring balls, which incur a daily fee for usage, but we dropped anchor in 35' near the edge, heard the chain snub up on some coral, and decided to leave things as they are...for now. We've already checked into Tonga, but do need to show ourselves to Customs anyway here in Vava'u, so tomorrow we'll start exploring the area.
We've lost a day! Here in Tonga it's one day later than the USA. Yesterday, we were cleared in by two officials; cost was $25 for Customs, $15 for Quarantine, and $100 for Health...all in pa'anga dollars (conversion was .6436/USD yesterday). About 170 boats a year visit here; 70 yachts clear in from Apia or other ports, and 100 yachts come up from Vava'u. We had started walking to the 'bank' to obtain Tongan currency when a new pick-up stopped to give us a ride; turns out he was one of the senior Customs officials, so knew we were going to the bank and his office was adjacent next door. There was a tsunamai here two years ago. Nine people died and a tremendous amount of destruction occurred. There's a new temporary 'bank' (one room area for exchanging money; cash only, no ATM's; $10 pa'anga fee for any currency exchange), Customs office (another one room area), and high school, as well as an entire new village being built nearby for residents evacuated to higher ground. This is a very poor economy; small one room temporary houses abound; land is fenced off by cut off trees and a length of barbed wire and corrugated roofing; there are no bars or restaurants (that we know of) and one small store with limited items for the locals; the supply ship is supposed to arrive today. There are many horses, pigs, dogs and chickens running around,and since it's Spring here, they've all just had their babies...too cute! And of course, many smiling, waving children as well. We took a walk to the end of a small village nearby; according to the local Nurse Practitioner, there are less than 900 people on the island. During our walk we were met by Fehia, a local woman who has a very good command of English, and a picnic lunch had been arranged for the yachties. There are (including us), six boats here in the anchorage, all of them German except ourselves. Twelve of us were picked up by diesel flat bed truck and taken out to the airport (grass landing strip) located just by the beach on the NE side of the island. Fehia's family had prepared a feast: three kinds of fish dishes (fried, sweet and sour and poisson cru), potatoes, taro, cooked papaya, pig, fruits, and mango juice. (Cost was $10 pa'anga/person.) After lunch we toured the island a bit, and suffice it to say this is a small island offering quite a contrast to our last port of call, Apia. The main commercial activity here is preparing pandanus for weaving, and we didn't see any commercial stores at all. Our plan is to depart for Vava'u tomorrow, as winds look favorable for the 175 nm run down there (direction is about 185T).
Position: S15deg56.38min/W173deg46.14min: Team Infini is safely anchored in Niutoputapu. We dropped anchor at 0815 after a nice evening of stiff 15-18 SSE breeze. Seas weren't too bad, so although we were close hauled to beating (the last 40 miles), it was still comfortable. The time and date changes here...it's actually one hour earlier and one day later here in Tonga; just enough to confuse me...can't wait until they go to DST! We're expecting Officialdom soon, and will report more later.
We departed Apia Marina at 1500 hours for the 175 nm run to Niutoputapu, often called "New Potatoes" by yachties. It's located in northern Tonga, and is a point of entry to the Kingdom of Tonga. We really enjoyed our stay in Samoa, and highly recommend the area to those of you following in our path. Unfortunately, we were unable to see a lot of the area, as well as get to the nearby island of Suvaii, as Sue came down with a stomach virus for a few days, and we figured we'd get going to Tonga instead of spending further time here. Of note, there's an FM radio station here that is other-worldly. It's FM 101.1, and plays an incredibly eclectic selection of songs from the 40's thru the 80's; just the most delightful stuff you'd ever want to hear. I call it other-worldly because I can't quite describe the music...whoever does the play list is top notch. Most all musical venues are played and although we've all listened to oldies stations in the USA, 101.1 here is nothing like that...Really good stuff, and commercial free - how do they do that? The weather window so far has been great: 10-13 knots from the E-ESE, 2-3' seas, and this evening's sail was beautiful with an accompanying full moon. While at the marina we did some boat maintenance: I went up the mast to check the rigging and got the autopilot working (rechecked all the wiring and rebuilt the solenoid. Note: for any of you that have equipment that includes a solenoid... take it apart to inspect and clean it occasionally, and carry a spare!
We departed early and took a bus to Vailima, where the home and tomb of Robert Louis Stevenson is located. The bus ride is, as one would expect, a cultural experience, but I've got to tell you, the little kid in back of us was giving us history lessons, and the woman in front of us with two kids on her lap was contributing to our sense of wonderment. The people here have been SO friendly; everyone asks where you're from, how long will you be here...it's like they must give lessons in school on hospitality management...it's just awesome! We arrived at the RLS Museum entrance and walked the beautifully gardened road to the former plantation house of this Scottish author who was so beloved by the Samoans. It's been restored to its former glory (by the generous donations of an American businessman) and we had a personalized tour conducted by a young man named Nitro (...seriously), and he really knew his stuff. For those of you not familiar with Stevenson's works, they include Treasure Island, Kidnapped; Strange Case of Dr Jeckyl and Mr Hyde, The Ebb Tide, The Black Arrow, In The South Seas, A Child's Garden of Verses, The Vailima Letters and a long list of others. After an enjoyable walk around the house, we hiked up the steep, short path to the tomb on Mt. Vaea. There's a long path you can take which is a bit flatter and not so steep...we chose to exercise those soft calf muscles that haven't seen a hike in way too long. Once there, we were befriended by a group of young people in college, and we learned the names of various birds as well as enjoyed conversation with a few of the folks who had never been there before either. We returned to town by bus in mid afternoon and did a bit of window shopping downtown. There are numerous grocery, department, office supply, fabric and a bunch of other stores for Apia's population of about 44,000 people. It's been a thoroughly enjoyable day! Oh, btw, there was a tsunamai alert last night at midnight; there had been an earthquake in Vanuatu. We were awakened by the marina guard who knocked on our hull and informed us of the alert; fortunately, it was cancelled within about 30 minutes...thank goodness.
Lat 13deg49.675min/Long171deg45.549min. We had a wonderful overnight sail in 15 knots of easterly winds to Apia, Samoa, arriving at 0900. We were met by two marina representatives in their small boat, who guided us to our slip at the marina and took our docklines. Anchoring here in the harbor is no longer permitted, and all yachts must use the marina. Being five years old, the marina is beautiful, and Immigration, Quarantine, Health, Customs, and the Port Captain all came to the boat to check us in. Meanwhile, some of our old friends were here, and we were made to feel quite welcomed. We walked the town a little bit, ate a pizza (!) and had a Vailima beer (this is the local beer brewed here in Samoa). Tomorrow we'll do a few boat chores and start our serious exploration of this island. Amazing to think we won't have to worry about our anchor dragging or another boat hitting us...we're behind a gated fence with 24/7 security!