Monday, October 15, 2012

Vava'u, Tonga Part 2

It seems that every waking moment during our last week in Vava’u was filled with activities.  Numerous trips into the small town of Neiafu were made to shop for provisions and use the painfully-slow, wifi internet connections at the Tropicana and Aquarium Cafes.  A small amount of diesel fuel for “Blue Rodeo” and gasoline for our dinghy motor and SCUBA compressor was purchased and transferred aboard in jerry cans.  Also, after months of very high humidity and periods of rainy weather, we began to notice a musty smell emanating from our stacks of folded clothing, towels and linens.  So, the decision was made to have everything washed and dried by a laundry service.  Three dinghy trips in and back from our mooring and about 2 days later, the mission was accomplished.  We lost track of how many kilos of our laundry was washed, dried and folded but remember paying almost $180 for the service…youch!!  Keeping it all in perspective though, our laundry costs for this entire cruising season have been reasonable, due mostly to Anne’s efforts to do it herself aboard the boat.  That process involves using a plunger-like device, a 5 gallon bucket, an old-fashioned clothes wringer and stringing a    clothes line around “Blue Rodeo’s” rigging.   The hard work is often done after determining that rain is unlikely and that the winds will stay below a level that would send the laundry on the lines flying out to sea.  

With a few of our new cruising friends heading on to Australia via Fiji, Vanuatu and New Caledonia, our last few days in Neiafu were also filled with heart-felt goodbyes.  I each case, saying au revoir was made a little easier by  the promise of reunions in other exotic cruising destinations.

Even though we had only begun to see the beautiful sights in the Vava’u area, we decided to head south to the Ha’apai Island group of Tonga for about a month knowing that we’d be returning in mid-October to rendezvous with good friends from our hometown who had arranged a sailboat charter for a week.  Sailing with them will give us the opportunity to revisit a few of our favorite places and explore new ones.

The Ha’apai Island group lies about 80 miles south of Vava’u so, with an early start, the trip can be made in a day with arrival timed to take advantage of the last of the late-afternoon light to see and avoid the numerous reefs around the islands.  Wanting to get a bit of a head start on the passage, we left Neiafu harbor in the early afternoon hoping to spend the night anchored off a small island near the southern end of the island group.  A pleasant sail took us to the tiny island of Maninita where we studied the turbulent water around the island’s surrounding reef.  Anchorage is possible inside the reef in one small area but it is used normally as a day anchorage due to minimal protection from the wind and seas and limited room for a boat to swing on anchor if the wind changes direction.  After assessing the rather intimidating reefs and marginal space, we sailed back north to another island offering a better anchorage and arrived just before sunset.    It had been another full day but, as we drifted-off to sleep, we looked forward to the next morning’s predawn wake-up and another day of sailing toward new horizons.