Tim will be rejoining in Australia. Bob is working out well as crew, but with Tim returning and Jesse joining we won’t have a berth for him between Australia and (somewhere in the vicinity of) Singapore. He’s planning to head home for that interval, and then rejoin. I’m thinking that I will fly home from Singapore along with Jesse, in early December. I would spend two and a half months at home, while Tim and crew cruise in SE Asia. Then back to Singapore around March 1st, and Tim and I and presumably Bob will continue westward across the Indian Ocean. Got it…?
Backing up to Australia, we have logistics to be worked out there, too. When will we arrive? What flights should Bill and Bob book from there? What flights should Hallie and Jesse and Tim book to get there? Hallie, Jesse and I want to explore some of Australia by land. What part(s)? How long can I afford to be away from the boat? What work will we want done on the boat during this interval?
But first we need to make some choices for the near term. We had our new sail and the replacement pump for the autopilot shipped to here. To our surprise they both arrived very quickly. Monday we have an appointment with the mechanic to install the pump. The wind is predicted to go light, so we’re also hoping we can raise the new sail to check it out. Then we have a few more days in Tonga before we head for…
…Tokelau…? That is my goal. But it is north and east of here, and thus probably to windward (and thus uncomfortable sailing in the ocean waves). The reasons to go there are threefold. First, it is one of the places most threatened by sea level rise; it is on Jimmy’s list of important Blue Planet Odyssey destinations. Second, almost nobody goes there; it would probably be the most remote stop on our trip. Some may see that as a reason NOT to go there, but I see it as an exciting departure from the “milk run” — the standard route that most yachts follow. The third reason to go is that Drina will be going there. Drina successfully negotiated the Northwest Passage, and this will be the first chance to rendezvous with her. And Jimmy’s daughter Doina and her son will be aboard Drina, adding to the fun.
The downside of heading north to Tokelau, and then to Tuvalu, is primarily the added distance — about 900 miles. It also means we would not visit Fiji. And another issue for us is that our food supplies are dwindling, and there is little or nothing available in Tokelau or Tuvalu. We would have to stock up here in Tonga, which seems to have less than anywhere we’ve been so far. Or an alternative would be to stop in American Samoa, on the way to Tokelau. Excellent provisioning there, but a pain to clear in and out of another country.
Bill and Bob have agreed to give Tokelau a try. It all depends on the weather. We’re not going to “knock ourselves out” trying to get there if the winds make it difficult. Everyone is talking about it now being officially an El Niño year, and this will manifest in unstable and unpredictable weather. We shall see…
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!