After rounding the north end of the Vava'u archipelago and traveling down the west side we entered the channels leading to the very protected harbor in front of the town of Neiafu. It looks like a exotic version of Falmouth Harbour in Antigua. All sorts of sailing boats are anchored from the tiniest to the huge (78m long) M5 and everything in-between. The waterfront is filled with bars and restaurants with tender docks for guests. We arrived at about 16:30 local time (plus one day now for passing the international date line) and it took a number of tries before we got a good solid anchorage in 30 meters. The bottom feels like a flat shelf of rock with sand on top as we kept sliding around before we finally found a good spot west of town a bit. After a wonderful nights sleep (no more swell!!!) we awoke to a rainy morning and the news we'd have to wait until 12:00 for the customs guys to be free from processing other boats ahead of us. No worries, we'll just have another cup of café and relax. So good to be here and begin a new experience in a new country.
- Distance (nm)
- Average (kts)
After almost four months in the islands of French Polynesia we begin our passage to Tonga. Our plans are to make a number of stops along the way to break up the passage to be able to handle this with the crew we have on-board. This means we'll be doing 2-3 days passages at most before stopping and resting for a few days before moving on.
Our first stop is planned to be at Maupihaa, still part of French Polynesia where we hope the winds and ocean swell will allow us to rest for a night before we take off for Palmerston Island (part of the Cook Islands). It's a very interesting place with four families that have lived there for 150 years welcoming sailors and giving their hospitality. From there, we look to stop at Beveridge Reef before continuing onto the nation of Nuie (smallest country in the world). From Nuie we will push on for Tonga and begin a couple of months of whale watching and diving before we head off for New Zealand.
The entire central Pacific has been everything we have dreamed of and we've especially enjoyed the kindness of the Polynesian people who have always had a smile for us. We'll be back someday for sure as we have plenty of memories, friends and many more places to explore out here. It'll be an interesting passage so come along and see how it goes for us!
Arriving at the archipelago of Vava'u, Tonga
I am perched precariously on the edge of the sofa in the saloon, a coffee in one hand, a packet of small biscuits in the other, the balls of my feet firmly planted, knees bent in anticipation of the next crazy wave that is certain to strike our hull when I hear a rustling sound in the galley which happens to be Ivan busily emptying crumbs from a bread sack. Carefully, patiently, he is gently shaking the bag, coaxing a small pile of crumbs from the deepest depths of the sack out into the slop bucket that is currently swinging from the engine room door, teasing them from a bag designed to hold full length French bread with the intent that the crumbs not land on the floor he has recently hoovered. The last piece of a tired baguette lay on the counter behind him, it's rumpled and peeling crust clearly showing its age, but being that it is indeed the last piece of French bread from Polynesia, it will not go to waste, nothing does when you're this far out to sea.
So what's in the slop bucket you ask? Eggshells, potato peels, the rinds of various fruits, seeds of olives, teabags, coffee grinds, and occasionally, thoroughly stale bread crumbs. We are currently eight hours out after our departure this morning from the island of Nuie, a lone speck of coral that lies in the middle of absolute nowhere, but that also happens to be on the way to the Kingdom of Tonga. A popular stopover for passing yachts, Nuie is another collection point, one of those unusual places that, for purely geographical reasons, hosts pretty much everyone that's passing through. When we arrived, M5, formerly known as Mirabella 5, the world's largest single masted sailing vessel was resting at anchor in the bay, using the spot normally reserved for cargo freighters, which gives you an idea of how massive she truly is.
It's Sunday at the moment, but tomorrow it will be Tuesday when we arrive in the first islands of Tonga, the reason being that a short distance from here lies the international date line. Monday will not take place this week, Monday will be lost forever inside the mechanisms of calendar creation, but being that I've never been a big fan of Monday's anyway I'm not at all distraught over losing this one permanently. I've flown over the IDL many times, but this will be the first time I have passed over it by sea, traveling at a mere nine point five knots. Moving across it so slowly conjures images of the lost Monday being slowly washed away by the waves or fading into nothing under a giant date line that we can actually see approaching, but of course it's not actually visible this line, it's only imaginary, like most everything mankind tends to hold up as supremely important.
The weather outside currently sucks. Even the crew of M5 complained of the rough crossing from Bora Bora. We are stuck inside a convergence zone of competing weather fronts, which is a fancy way of saying that the weather outside sucks. We are sailing in the least desirable sea-state next to a full-on storm, large rolling swell coming at us from varying directions, no rhyme or reason to them, no discernible pattern, no rhythm, so no predictability as to which way the boat might shift next. Sounds a bit like the current state of the global financial system and its ruling currency cartels hellbent on grinding the real economy to bits. My god, so this must be what it actually looks like then? If people were able to physically experience it the way I am at this very moment then surely they would all run for the hills.
And in other news, we will always have fond memories of our brief stay on the tiny coral island of Nuie. A friendly place of lovely vistas, surprisingly dense jungle, a dramatic coastline, a rich cultural heritage, but also, sadly, a dwindling population; there are a mere twelve-hundred people left. Unfortunately the dead now far outnumber the living on Nuie. The aging population, the elders that tend to be more attached to a place and their community remain, whereas many of the younger people have already left, aiming to make a stake for themselves in the greener pastures of New Zealand to the south. During our tour of the island we came across entire villages left abandoned, and one can't help but wonder if they truly understand what they've given up by leaving, if they are prepared to live in a place where they will always be seen as outsiders rather than what they once were; deeply connected inside the tightly knit communities of tiny Nuie.
The fragrance of fresh pesto drifts from the galley, it's getting dark outside, on most nights out here in the middle of the Pacific the sky would be filled with an incredible blanket of stars stretching from horizon to horizon, but not tonight. Under the current weather conditions there will be few visible, but Carmen has made pesto, and I can smell the pasta cooking in the galley, and tomorrow we will roll into Tonga on top of this crazy sea that has carried us thus far some twelve thousand miles from our original departure point in Palma di Majorca, Spain. We are crazy sailors, traveling in what at times must be honestly considered a most unpleasant fashion but at others is the most enviable imaginable, and tonight we will have pesto with pasta for dinner, and tomorrow we will arrive in Tonga.
Since our arrival on the 11th, we have had a wonderful experience on the island of Nuie, so glad we stopped for a few days. We rented a car and drove all over the island exploring the many paths down the sea finding breathtaking vistas and secret swimming pools. On Saturday we visited one of the villages where they were hosting an annual party to show off their food, dancing and crafts. Tracy and Carmen had the best fresh oysters they've ever eaten and I enjoyed the pork, chicken and taro root dishes. What a great stop-over, especially being able to finally pay a visit to the Nuie Yacht Club. Today (Sunday morning) we all agreed the big swells that were coming in over night prevented us from sleeping well so we're off on our way to Tonga rather than stay another day at anchor in such uncomfortable conditions. The passage is about 250nm and we expect to arrive in about 24-26 hours (+1 day as Tonga is in the same time zone as New Zealand). So, next posting should be over a beer at the Aquarius Café in Neiafu, Vava'u Tonga!
Currently we are motoring, the mainsail is down and the staysail is out. The sky is cloudy, we have good visibility and the sea state is very rough. Wind is 14.3 kts from 182°T, the air temperature is 24°C while the sea temperature is 27°C. Our SOG is 8.2 kts with our COG 277°T.
With the winds dying down overnight and moving dead on our stern we had to start up the motor again and go straight to Nuie. This turned out to be a wonderful stop on the way to Tonga and we'll stay a few days to relax and catch up on our sleep after the long passage from Bora Bora. When we arrived this morning (about 06:00 local time) we found lots of humpback whales breaching and rolling on the surface around the mooring field. Once we tied off to a super-sized mooring (for huge boats) we enjoyed watching the whales come close to our boat. What a welcome to Nuie! After a quick swim to cool off we noticed a couple of black-banded sea snakes cruising around the surface. While extremely venomous, their mouths are so small they can't bite us, just tiny fish. After arranging our customs and immigration (really easy...) we just had to stop by the Nuie Yacht Club for a beer and tee-shirt. Visiting this yacht club has been on my 'bucket-list' for a long time and it was fantastic to finally be there! The water around here is sparkling clear blue down to 40 meters or more and a refreshing 27.8C temperature... just right to cool you down after a long walk around 'town'. On Saturday we have a car rented to drive around the island stopping off at some local markets to sample food and look over the crafts. On Sunday we're planning to do a dive off the back of the boat as we are in 14-25m of water dropping off to 5000m. Should be amazing. For tonight, Friday, we're having Andrea and his friend Taiha come over for Napolitano Pizza Night. They also arrived this morning and will stay for a few days too before pushing on for Tonga. Not sure if we'll head out late on Sunday or wait until early Monday morning but we're sure glad we stopped here!
The wind and waves have tired us out and we're going to take a break in Nuie after all. We're hoping the information on solid mooring balls for larger yachts is true. It was on our list of places to visit and I'm glad we are going to be able to visit for a couple of days before we move onto Tonga. We had 25-30 kts of wind and big seas all night long and throughout this morning. Now, it's starting to calm down a bit and the forecast calls for light winds and smaller swells by the time we get to Nuie tomorrow morning. Looking forward to a beer at the Nuie Yacht Club with the crew and our friend, Andrea!
Currently we are motoring, the mainsail is down and the foresail is furled. The sky is clear, we have good visibility and the sea state is moderate. Wind is 11.4 kts from 90°T, the air temperature is 28°C while the sea temperature is 28°C. Our SOG is 8.2 kts with our COG 263°T.
Well, right after I posted the message yesterday about how calm the sea was, it kicked up into 2.5-3.0 swells along with 20-30 kts of wind. Bad news was the comfortable sleeping was over but good news was we could finally shut the motor off and sail! We arrived in Palmerston Island about 08:00 this morning and saw there was no way we could anchor there as, just like all the other atolls, the reef drops off too quickly to 1000 meters. So, tired as we are, we decided to push on for Tonga. It's about 625 nm away and we can get there in 2.5 to 3 days days so it's the best option to take at this point. No sense stopping in Nuie as it has the same situation as the other atolls and we think our chances of being able to anchor there are not good either. We missed Andrea at Palmerston anyway, he must have pushed on himself to try and get to Tonga as the swells are uncomfortable for him too. So, we meet for a beer in Tonga!
Currently the mainsail is reef 2 and the genoa is out. The sky is clear, we have good visibility and the sea state is moderate. Wind is 23.4 kts from 102°T, the air temperature is 28°C while the sea temperature is 29°C. Our SOG is 10.4 kts with our COG 265°T.
Still no wind but at least is is flat calm for easy sleeping when off watch. Good thing we put a full load of fuel on back in Bora Bora so we have the capacity to motor all the way if necessary. We've passed other yachts that are trying to sail and making no progress at all. As our arrival at Palmerston Island would be about 01:00 tomorrow we've throttled back a bit to make our arrival be closer to 08:00 when we can see the reef. The forecast is not so good as it is calling for 3.0m seas and 20 kts of wind tomorrow and there is not a pass inside the lagoon so we are forced to anchor outside where it will be uncomfortable. Good news though, we heard Andrea is already there so we'll look forward to sharing a meal and some stories with him. Perhaps just hearing his name today brought us some luck with as fishing as Ivan landed a 6kg Mahi Mahi (guess what's for dinner??). Our next report should be timed with our arrival in Palmerston. Ciao a tutti!
Currently we are motoring, the mainsail is down and the foresail is furled. The sky is clear, we have good visibility and the sea state is smooth. Wind is 4.3 kts from 100°T, the air temperature is 29°C while the sea temperature is 30°C. Our SOG is 7.2 kts with our COG 246°T.
We just left the waters belonging to French Polynesia and have entered the waters of the Cook Islands. Of course, it's just an imaginary line on the chart however, it officially marks the beginning of our exploration of another part of the world. Out of all the islands that make up the Cooks, we only plan to stop in Palmerston Island in the north on our way westward and are now over half way there. The ocean is very calm and the winds have dropped to be only 6-9 kts so, not even enough to fill the sails. Hence we motor until they pick up again. Just a nice quiet passage for us to enjoy plenty of time reading and relaxing. The stars at night are magnificent though and I look forward to using my iPad to learn more each night about the Southern Hemisphere.
Currently we are motoring, the mainsail is down and the foresail is furled. The sky is clear, we have good visibility and the sea state is slight. Wind is 8.4 kts from 105°T, the air temperature is 28°C while the sea temperature is 30°C. Our SOG is 7.8 kts with our COG 246°T.
Well, so much for plans! We had a nice motor/sail over here arriving about 08:00. It was my watch (04:00 to 06:00) that brought the island into view just as dawn was breaking. The atoll was like all the many others we've visited except... the information about the possibility of anchoring in front of the pass was bad. We set out in the tender to take some depth measurements and found that we would have to anchor way too close to the reef for comfort to be able to find a depth less than 40 meters. Even with 120 meters of chain, that is still too deep. So, we set our sails back up and are currently motor/sailing toward Palmerston Island. There (we hope!) the information is correct about having some mooring balls or better anchoring spots to choose from. In the meantime, we are enjoying being back out on the open sea!
Currently we are motoring, the mainsail is down and the genoa is out. The sky is clear, we have good visibility and the sea state is slight. Wind is 11.3 kts from 120°T, the air temperature is 28°C while the sea temperature is 30°C. Our SOG is 9.1 kts with our COG 246°T.
We're now cleared out of French Polynesia, the paperwork has all been taken care of and our passports stamped for departure. We've been getting the boat ready for sailing and hope to catch some winds for our first leg to Maupihaa. Just before we head out later this afternoon, we'll top off with fuel then make our way through the pass to the open Pacific Ocean. We expect to take about 15 hours to sail the 130 nm distance to Maupihaa. Follow along on our passage map below and note the new weather map for you to see what kinds of winds, rain, etc. we are experiencing along the way.
If you enjoyed this article please feel free to share it!