Tag Archives: Tonga

Tonga Addendum

Our BPO support person (Norwegian ex-pat) taxied me to immigrations, the port authority and customs, so we could clear out. I asked him about the mix of two cultures. He said, “The cultures are so utterly different that if you aren’t religious you would have nothing to talk about with the Tongans.” Of course that is an overstatement, as there is always family and the weather, but it provided some insight. He says white people have traditionally been looked up to (after all, they brought the Christian faith), though not so much by the younger people. He expressed admiration for the family values of the Tongans, mentioning specifically respect for elders.

But his feeling is that he lives in a community of 200 ex-pats interspersed in a larger, culturally separate Tongan community. All friendships and most other relationships are within the group of 200 ex-pats only. He doesn’t much like the small town feel of a community of only 200, and he says it will be the ex-pats that eventually drive him to leave, not the Tongans.

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While I dealt with the authorities the rest of the crew bought frozen foods and bread and eggs, and picked up our laundry. I tried to make my bed before we left, and discovered that one of my sheets was missing. We don’t have spares, or so we thought. I went back to the laundry shop, where the lady said, “Oh no! I know which boat has it. They had a lot of bedding, and I mixed yours in with theirs.” We tried to hail them on the radio, to no avail. She thought they were moored near the charter company, so I got in the dinghy and checked out all boats there. Didn’t find them. Went to the charter company office and asked about them. “Yes, they were on one of our moorings, but they left earlier today.”

It was time for us to go, so I returned to the laundry shop and gave her the names of all the BPO boats, so if the sheet was returned she could pass it to one of them. Off we went, checking the names of all the boats we passed. We saw a likely boat in an anchorage we had in mind, so we stopped there, but no luck. Next I got in the dinghy and zoomed around toward other likely boats under sail, and to another popular anchorage. Again I saw a boat that matched the description, but it wasn’t the one. One good thing, though — I saw other BPO boats there, and they told me about a family on the nearby island that had invited us all to a Tongan feast the next day (for a fee, of course).

Returning to the boat, I felt good that I had given it the ol’ college try to recover my sheet, but I wasn’t happy sleeping without it. In the morning I tried calling for the boat via the morning “net” that most yachties listen to. No luck. We searched deeper into the bowels of the boat, and found another set of sheets! Dirty, stained, smelly. But the laundry would still be open for 2 or 3 hours. So back into the dinghy for another long and wet ride, back to town. The laundry lady told me she had trouble sleeping because of her mistake. I told her I was going to give her a chance to make it up to me, by washing the sheets ASAP. Ninety minutes later I told her we were even and she should sleep well. Bought gas before embarking on the four miles back in the dinghy.

Bill claimed that because I had taken care of the lack of sheets, we would run into the boat that had mine. And he was right. As we were sailing out of the anchorage they were sailing in. We tried to hail them on the radio, with no luck. So I again jumped into the dinghy for a short wet ride over to them. They were obviously perplexed to see a dinghy pounding over the waves coming at them as they sailed along at 7 knots. But when I shouted that they had a sheet of mine, they said, “Yes! We ended up with an extra one. But how did you track us down??”

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Shortly thereafter we were anchored near the other BPO boats. Most crews were already heading ashore to do eye testing of the eleven kids in the family. I don’t think I’ve mentioned that this is a service that several of the BPOers, including Bob on our boat, are doing in conjunction with a non-profit in Germany. The BPOers were trained in Papeete to test the kids’ eyesight. They report the results back to the non-profit, which makes glasses for the kids who need them. And then the really cool part — they connect with boats bound for the same islands, and have the glasses delivered. That may happen a year later, but it is eye care that the kids likely would not have at all otherwise. What a great idea!

The rest of us soon followed ashore, and were provided what truly qualified as a feast. There is only the one family on the island, yet they managed to prepare at least a dozen different dishes for twenty hungry people. Plus Dad played guitar and sang, with Mom accompanying on vocals, and the girls did traditional dancing.

Tomorrow morning we are going to provide some epoxy resin to help our host patch a hole in his boat, before we REALLY leave Tonga bound for Tokelau.

Eye testing
Eye testing
Eye testing
Eye testing
Roasting dinner
Roasting dinner
Dinner is served
Dinner is served
And song
And song
And dance
And dance

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Farewell to Tonga, Almost

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The Kingdom of Tonga is a very nice place for cruising. Islands everywhere, with protected waters between, and beautiful anchorages. The town has fuel and laundry services and restaurants and a great produce market. It seems a little strange, though — almost every business is run by an ex-pat. Quite a few Americans, plus Kiwis and Aussies, and the grocery stores all seem to be run by Chinese. It’s like there are two worlds here, one Tongan, one ex-pat. The worlds overlap, and everyone appears to get along very well together, but it makes me wonder if there is more below the surface. The ex-pats all seem to love it here. Many have a story about arriving under sail many years ago and never leaving.

In any case it has been pleasant to do some relaxed cruising here for three weeks. Also fun to visit with Chapter Two, Maggie, Tahawus, and Blue Wind. One more restaurant meal tonight, and then we will be cooking aboard for the next three weeks, as we head for some remote places. Wish we could have stayed to see more whales…

We did have one more whale encounter, at a distance.
We did have one more whale encounter, glistening in the distance.

Swallows Cave was a cool place to take the dinghy into.

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With graffiti, even in Tonga.
With graffiti, even in Tonga.
Port Maurelle
Port Maurelle
Port Maurelle
Port Maurelle
Nuku Island
Nuku Island
Lookout tower at #30
Lookout tower at #30
After no waves for three weeks, it was exciting to walk across the island at #30 and see the open ocean crashing on the rocks.
After no waves for three weeks, it was exciting to walk across the island at #30 and see the open ocean crashing on the rocks.
Hiking
Hiking
Exploring
Exploring
You know I don't do underwater photos; this is a through-the-water photo. The blue is a starfish.
You know I don’t do underwater photos; this is a through-the-water photo. The blue is a starfish. The fish is outa this world!

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Updating the Plan

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 NiƱo year, and this will manifest in unstable and unpredictable weather. We shall see…