Malo e lelei!
Our departure from Niue was a bit unplanned as a large swell from the west started to come into the anchorage and set us oscillating like a metronome 25 degrees from one side to the other so we decided that it would be better to have a sleepless night and be moving towards Tonga rather than just sitting in the anchorage and not sleeping, so it was action stations to prepare Sarita for the passage – stowing everything that might move and checking our various systems and plotting our course. We ended up departing at 6pm, just as the sun was heading over the horizon.
The winds were 25-30 knots on the beam giving us an apparent wind forward of the beam and therefore lots of water over the bow in seas of 2-2.5mts but we were sailing fast, for us at least – 8 knots so we were happy. During the night the winds died down and shifted to more aft and the passage became quite nice. Dawn arrived just as we were approaching the islands of the Vavau group in northern Tonga. Thankfully our mainsail is still holding out and our new one should be on its way in the next week or so – fingers crossed.
We tied up at the customs and immigration dock alongside some British friends on Romano who had been waiting 4 days to clear into the country. We were boarded within 15 mins by one VERY LARGE gentleman and his colleague followed by another lady from the Ministry of Health. Forms were completed and signed and then stamped by the officials and money exchanged for their services. The officials were somewhat stupefied and they admitted that it was probably due to their Kava session the night before, Kava being a root of the pepper plant which is ground up and has some mild intoxicating effects.
|Katya swimming in swallows cave|
|Inside Swallows cave looking out|
Once cleared we picked up a mooring buoy and a great price of US$6 a night and went into town to explore. The town of Neiafu was much more rundown than Alofi in Niue and the supermarkets were not as well stocked buy the fruit and veg market was much better. They also had great wifi so we made the most of all the access and called home and caught up on news and other happenings.
Once provisioned we headed out to one of the islands of the Vavau group to relax and plan our next passage. Originally we had decided to get our new sail sent to Tonga but as the interisland ferry was out of commission nobody could give us a clear date when we might receive it so we decided to have the sail shipped to Fiji instead, this would however mean that our time here would be less than intended. We explored a few of the islands and anchorages and had a wonderful time in Swallows cave. The weather was not that great as we had quite a bit of rain and the winds were constantly in the 20knot range making many of the anchorages untenable.
We departed Tonga in winds of 20-25knots sailing through the islands towards Fiji, passing a number of whales that inhabit this area at this time of year.