Week 2 in Tonga

We finally got cruising, with our first stop at anchorage #13. Probably because there is a bareboat charter operation in Vava’u, all the anchorages are numbered. The numbers are shown on a chart (not to be used for navigation), and we have two cruising guides that refer to the same set of numbers. Numbers are easier than Tongan names for us pelangi (white folk).

Number 13 is interesting primarily because it is very much like a lake, with a narrow entrance from the sea. The guide says never to enter when there are waves, or at anything other than high tide, or when you don’t have good sunlight to see the coral. I think they overstate the danger, but with the narrow entrance plus the warnings it makes for an exciting pass.

More challenging in my opinion was anchoring inside. The water is too deep. There was a small beach across from the entrance, and I thought we might find shallow sand there. But by the time our port side depth sounder (yes, we have one on each side) read 30 feet, we were awfully close to the beach. And the starboard side depth was still reading 50 feet or more! We explored further and found a mooring that we could use.

We did a long hike ashore; we bought fruit from a Tongan who stopped by the boat with a supply he had just harvested from his “plantation.” But the most memorable thing about our two days at #13 had nothing to do with the specific location.The overriding thing was that it was…wait for it…COLD. Wearing long pants and a fleece. Sleeping under a blanket. Choosing between putting on socks or getting into bed right after dinner. Winter has arrived at latitude 19 degrees south.

========

We sailed to #16. Bill said it was one of the most enjoyable sails ever on the boat. The wind was strong but because of the islands everywhere there were minimal waves. I enjoyed a good sleep through much of it, as I was recovering from a flu-like illness, that had Bob down for a day or two, and then me. Bill seems to have avoided it.

We anchored out where the wind blew hard. Free energy for our batteries, but the howling all night can be troubling to sleep. It’s a little weird to be tied to the bottom of the ocean by one rope, and if it were to chafe through we would be on the coral within a minute! You can’t worry about this constantly, but when the anchor rode creaks and groans during the night, I get up periodically to reposition the chaffing gear and let out six inches of line so it rubs in a new spot…

We had another nice hike ashore.

=======

Sailed in 20+ knots, with double-reefed mainsail, but again in mostly smooth water so going to windward was fun, to anchorage #11. What a great time we’ve had here! We decided to take a mooring for 10 pa’anga a night (US $5). Very nice to be in a secure place where I should be able to get a good night’s sleep.

We’re renting the mooring from the Ark Gallery. The owner/artist is from the US but has lived here 31 years. She lives on a little houseboat on another mooring, and shows/sells her paintings there. She and her husband also do yacht deliveries (mostly back to the US), and they were interviewed by Jimmy Cornell years ago for his book about the experiences of veteran cruisers. Lots of fun to talk with her.

We had read about a Spanish restaurant nearby called La Paella that only does paella, but does it in a multi-course meal plus music. We’ve been depleting our own stores for nearly a week, so we asked the artist about the restaurant. She told us that the owner/cook was in town shopping at that moment — if we wanted to go tonight we had to book immediately so that she would buy enough for us. She made the call for us, and we were still in time. She (the artist) said one more rather cryptic thing as we were getting into the dinghy to go — that La Paella reminded her of the bar scene in the Star Wars movie…

Hard to imagine, but we just returned to the boat after one of the most delightful meals I can remember, and yes — it did have a Star Wars bar scene quality to it! You dinghy into a little beach, and walk up the path past the goats. In the restaurant three tables are set. The Spanish woman prepping food behind a bar made of huge twisted vines nods to the table set for three, so we sit. In the corner is an area closed off by what looks a lot like a couple of shower curtains. Kind of odd, but all very pleasant. She comes to the table and makes sure that we understand that there is no menu. She will bring gazpacho and a series of tapas, which she will describe as they are served.

Maybe I’ve been living on a boat with food-by-us for too long, but the flavors were scintillating. I’ve never had gazpacho that stood out as a taste treat. And then the succession of maybe eight (I lost count) tapas, each arranged creatively and beautifully, each a distinct and delightful taste. The paella that followed was great, but I wish I could have run through the succession of tapas again! How did she even get all the fresh ingredients, here where there doesn’t seem to be anything but fruit and some vegetables?

And then the shower curtains were pulled aside, and we had a three person band. Flamenco? Latin Jazz? No, hard hitting blues. Oh, Baby. In Spanish. Or was it? I don’t know — the vocalist (the cook’s husband, I think) belted out lyrics that occasionally were English, and maybe some was Spanish and some was made up as he went. It didn’t matter, because we were in the Star Wars bar scene. They did do a couple of Latin beats, with the cook joining in on maracas.

Did I mention that this restaurant is on a small island, accessible only by boat? The folks at the next table were from New Bedford. We will be visiting their boat tomorrow morning. Oh, did I mention the dog sticking his nose past the shower curtain during the musician’s tune up, and wagging his tail to the music? Or the beautiful black billy goat walking in during the music and rearing up on his hind legs threatening to butt a guest that went to pet him? All part of the movie. It’s going to be strange to watch Star Wars again some day, and think of La Paella, Anchorage #11, Vava’u, Tonga!

Entrance to #13
Entrance to #13
If it looks like we're only a boat length or two from shore, that's accurate. But we were assured that we were on a safe mooring.
If it looks like we’re only a boat length or two from shore, that’s accurate. But we were assured that we were on a safe mooring.
Went for a walk
Went for a walk
Along the way
Along the way
Ashore at #16
Ashore at #16
By the banyan tree
By the banyan tree
Another look at the same banyan tree
Another look at the same banyan tree
The gallery at #11
The gallery at #11
Slabs of coral rock were cut (somehow) by ancient Tongans, I believe for marking burial sites.
Slabs of coral rock were cut (somehow) by ancient Tongans, I believe for marking burial sites.
Sometimes called "walking trees," this one looks to me like it is "trucking."
Sometimes called “walking trees,” this one looks to me like it is “trucking.”
After nearly two weeks in Tonga we finally got a proper sunny day, and got to see colors!
After nearly two weeks in Tonga we finally got a proper sunny day, and got to see colors!
More colors
More colors
Steering by hand is fun when you can go 9 knots to windward with double reefed mainsail, because the multitude of islands provide so much protection that there are no waves.
Steering by hand is fun when you can go 9 knots to windward with double reefed mainsail, because the multitude of islands provide so much protection that there are no waves despite 25 knots of wind.
Dinner at La Paella
Dinner at La Paella
Taking in the Star Wars bar scene
Taking in the Star Wars bar scene
Belting out the blues, in no particular language
Belting out the blues, in no particular language
Billy
Billy
Gastronomic finale
Gastronomic finale

3 thoughts on “Week 2 in Tonga”

  1. Those truckin’ trees would have made a great Grateful Dead cover! Very cool! Remember when we were in search for the best paella in Seville? Maybe the best is in Tonga! Nice that you’ve met some lovely people and have had “in the zone” sailing.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s