To be honest, up until a few days ago there wasn't much going on, so not much to write about. It's been raining here; raining a lot! We were all beginning to wonder if Tonga was like Seattle, Washington, or Northern England; just one of those perpetually wet places. Everyone has been telling us it's the El Niño, there's been quite a bit of apologetic explanations from the locals, "Well, it is winter after all..." And that sort of thing, but after ten days of solid rain punctuated by two rather nasty squalls, we were seriously beginning to wonder.
Whale watching is the big activity here and this being whale season we hired a local boat to take us out. Boris and Keren were terrific hosts even if the whales themselves weren't. But ten ton animals do tend to do as they like. We did manage to see some whales breaching in the distance but the opportunity to jump in the water never arrived, oh well. What we've learned is far more interesting. Lots of people wind up in places like this; far off the track and way off the radar. In the case of Boris and Keren they chose Tonga to raise their family, living Robison Crusoe style on a tiny island with no utilities, building their home from Palm logs, local tropical wood and engineering their own plumbing and electricity. They have fruit trees, a garden, they raise their own chickens and pigs. Their children growing up in this wild place without Twitter or Facebook but knowing how to fish, build their own toys or whatever else they may need.
Nunki is anchored nearby. Yes, our dear Andrea has been cruising along with us ever since he reunited with his own yacht in the Society Islands. The running joke being that FG is actually Nunki's support vessel. Andrea making regular visits to catch up with a bit of laundry, join us for dinner or make use of our freezer space to store some fillets from his latest catch. Of course he is always welcome, and recently returned the favor by having us all over for Sunday dinner aboard his lovely lady Nunki. A classic Neapolitan style pasta Putanesca, the afternoon might as well have taken place in the Mediterranean as we all sat around the table together eating, drinking and talking about food; Siamo tutti Italiano.
In light of the weather I thought Art was being a bit optimistic when he signed us up for the week long Whangarei Classic Regatta and Vava'u Blue Water Festival. Low and behold a remarkable thing happened the morning of the Regatta; it stopped raining! Amazing sun greeted us the morning of the race along with strong trade winds; lifting spirits on board considerably. We were a crew of six with one guest on board, our rigorous pre-race prep consisting of first deciding which color crew T shirt to wear, how many bottles of champagne to chill, and what to serve for the post-race aperitif. The tender remained on deck, anchor chain stayed in the locker, and we decided early on we would not fly the gennaker.
It was in fact a challenging in-shore course that began here in the main harbor with a crowded line start. Giamma had only the mainsail up for this section of the course. An eighteen boat field made for some fancy maneuvering through race traffic squeezed into the narrow bay; getting past them while avoiding the yachts in the mooring field was a trick. Giamma and Art's strategy being to allow the smaller boats to get ahead of us so we could cross the start line unencumbered, but this left us at the back of the pack as we rounded the first buoy at the other end of the bay. After leaving the bay we heading up into the islands, now under full sail, the crew opened her up and FG took off making excellent upwind time through the twelve mile course.
This race being only our second attempt at regatta racing, we were pretty excited to see the field in front doggedly drop off behind us and into our rear view as we passed them one by one. Shorthanded on race crew, our pre-race decision not to fly the kite didn't hinder the fun, it made the race much more sporting actually. A few boats being quite fast and sailing quite aggressively with gennakers flying on the downwind leg were the last to fall; it was a great feeling! We crossed the finish several minutes ahead of the fleet, grabbing line honors and the overall win. No it wasn't the Copa Del Rey, or the Loro Piana, but here we are in Tonga, in the remote Pacific, it was a pretty awesome day. Cheers from Tonga, we are Feelin' Good!