Fed Ex, Mantas, Pig Roast, Whales

We received Fed Ex tracking emails saying that both our new sail and the hydraulic pump for the autopilot had arrived. Faster than we expected…yeah! So Bob and I took the dinghy back to town — about 5 miles…nice to have a big powerful dinghy. We had to wait for Linda the Fed Ex lady to return to her office, and we had to wait for the truck that had the big heavy package, and we had to wait for the paperwork to be completed and the forms printed at the store next door, and then Linda drove us the two blocks to the customs office where we had to wait for them to verify that we really were a yacht-in-transit so we don’t have to pay import duty, and we pay Linda for the delivery from the capital island and we pay her to be our customs agent and we pay the customs processing fee, and they give us the boxes. In other words it all went smoothly, on island time.

Delivery for No Regrets
Delivery for No Regrets

Back to the boat, but no time to check out the new sail yet, as we want to try another anchorage further east. Along the way we see shapes in the water. Nope, not whales. But almost as good — they are very large manta rays. Very cool to watch, right next to us. I took photos and Bill got some good video, but of course I’ve given up all hope of uploading video to the blog.

Mantas right in front of the boat
Mantas right in front of the boat
Manta RIGHT in front of the boat!
Manta RIGHT in front of the boat!
Making an uncharacteristically sudden turn
Making an uncharacteristically sudden turn
Back to serenely flying through the water
Back to serenely flying through the water

When we had enough of motoring in circles with the mantas, we continued to anchorage #27. Very pleasant, except that the bottom seems to be too hard for the anchor to dig into. We messed with the anchor for an hour — it holds fine until you back down hard on it, and then it skips loose and drags a little and grabs again, but still not properly set. Finally we decided to leave it, and set an anchor alarm that will alert us if we drag very far. Hopefully we won’t be woken up in the middle of the night, needing to start the anchoring routine all over again. But no big deal. If we drag it will be into open water, and it is a beautiful night with a full moon.

Here Ben and Lisa are building the Mandala Resort. It’s a huge project, more a labor of love than a business. Solar power, composting toilets, living roofs, and 50,000 bags of concrete.

The entire little island is a well-hidden resort
The entire little island is a well-hidden resort
One of the five guest rooms is a treehouse!
One of the five guest rooms is a treehouse!
With a view, of course
With a view, of course

Next day the destination was Lape Island for the Tongan feast, along with the three other BPO boats here in Vava’u. Just 26 people live on Lape. Most do not speak much English. They have a school with two teachers, and a church. They have received aid from many foreign governments. For example, they have photovoltaic panels with batteries to provide lights, donated by the Japanese.

When the residents sought to build a pier a few years ago, they asked for donations, but came up with only 150 pa’anga. Then they had the idea of reaching out to the yachties by putting on a Tongan feast each week, and also selling their crafts at the events. The first year they raised 40,000 pa’anga! I may not have the facts quite right, but the feast was delicious. Roast pig, of course, and several fish dishes, of course, and an assortment of other yummy things not all of which I could identify. And we learned a wee bit about the culture. E.g., every Tongan house, whether a poor person’s or the king’s, MUST have a tapa and a mat, ready for the occasions when they are needed (weddings and funerals, apparently).

Our host explains about tapas and mats
Our host explains about tapas and mats

Next morning I was lying in bed half awake at dawn, thinking that Bob was making very strange snoring noises. I rolled over and tried to ignore it, but they persisted and I awoke another 10%. I had the thought that his snoring sounded inhuman, and ever so slowly it occurred to me that maybe it was something else. I got out of bed and saw that Bob wasn’t even in his cabin. Out on deck I see him securing the dinghy painter, which made no sense to me. He sees me and says, “Oh, you heard the squeaks that the dinghy was making?”

We both went back in the pilot house, but I couldn’t imagine how the dinghy could make such sounds. “Was the dinghy caught under the bridge deck? Or tied up so tight it was rubbing against the boat?” No, Bob says the dinghy had not been touching the boat. At that point I was pretty sure that the thought taking shape in my sleepy brain was correct. It was the vocalizations of humpback whales!

I darted below to listen again, and sure enough, it was getting fainter, but I could still hear the sounds coming through the hull. I grabbed my camera, told Bob what I thought was happening, and we went out to scan the surrounding waters. And there she was, swimming out of our anchorage. I managed to snap one picture of her blowing, before she was gone behind an island. There must have been more, as they were having quite a conversation. And I dare say it must have included a baby, given the high pitch of some of the sounds. We just saw the one large whale. But it has already made our day!

"Thar she blows!"
“Thar she blows, in the dawn. Other boats tell us the whales swam right past our boat, but we didn’t recognize the sounds until they had moved on.”

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