Neiafu, Vava’u, Tonga,7 September 2011.
Sometimes I can’t remember what I’ve written and what I’ve only thought about writing.
I’m moored just north of a 27 foot Albin Vega (there always seems to be a 27-footer around beating out Twister in the smallest boat category). It’s the second Albin Vega 27 I’ve seen on this trip. They must be good boats. Rebellion, the other Albin Vega I’ve noticed, sailed by Paul from the Netherlands, came through the Beagle Channel (just north of Cape Horn. One of three ways to get around the southern tip of South America—Straits of Magelan, Beagle Channel, and, of course, around Cape Horn) to get to the Pacific. Another Albin Vega 27, Berserk, was sailed from Norway to Ushuaia then to the Antarctic Peninsula. You can read about that in the book, Sailing To Antarctica With Berserk, or something like that (not well written IMHO, but a fascinating and inspiring story)
To my north are a couple of “old friends” from the Pacific crossing—Gary and Rory on La Cueca, and Wattie and Di on Cariad. Elsewhere in the anchorage are Rutea (from San Diego).
Many of the cruising boats in the South Pacific have converged on Vava’u Island in Tonga for the Vava’u Regatta—a week of racing, partying, and other activities. I had originally planned to bypass Tonga, but the other big attraction—swimming with Humpback Whales—drew me here. I was in fact greeted by a few of them as I was entering the passage to Neiafu Harbor (also known as Port Refuge for its excellent shelter).
The sail down from Apia, Samoa was shaping up to be the most pleasant passage of the trip until the last 30 hours. Most of the way I was sailing on a beam reach with ca 12 knots of wind and only 4 feet of swell (The majority of my sailing on this trip has been downwind which is fine as long as there’s little swell. With swell, Twister tends to yaw and roll with every swell that catches her stern and since I typically only have the jib up going downwind, there’s no mainsail to stabilize the motion of the boat). It was so pleasant I was almost getting bored when the wind started backing (changing direction in a counterclockwise direction) and increasing in strength until I had 30 knots of wind from the south (ie right on the nose). It didn’t take long for the swells to start building in size. So the last 30 hours (and about the last 30 miles) were spent beating into the wind and swell, going 2 knots or less. Twister handled the conditions like a champ, though. That was probably a little taste of what what’s to come if I decide to sail to New Zealand. I’d love to get some input from y’all on that subject (NZ or OZ), so please leave a comment (in fact, comments on any subject are encouraged). From Tonga I plan to sail to Fiji and from there either to New Zealand or to Australia via New Calidonia. In Apia a lovely couple, Martin and Simone on the boat Whistling Oyster, gave me a complete set of paper charts for NZ, so that’s no longer a reason to skip NZ.
The check-in procedure in Neiafu (main city on Vava’u) was pretty painless. I tied up to the customs dock and checked in with immigration, customs, and quarantine. The fourth and final office, health, was unavailable, so I’ll do that today. More about Tonga when I’ve seen more of it.