31st October – 7th November 2018
|Volcanoes Toufa on the left and Kao on the right|
|Tongan Navy Vessel|
One night passages are not really our favourite. We can’t quite get into the sleeping rhythm that multi day ones afford us. So when we get to our destination we feel just as wiped out as we do on longer trips. This one was no different.
Arriving at midday we anchored off the beach of tiny Pangaimotu Island. Here is the home of Big Mama’s Yacht Club restaurant and bar and it’s pretty much the centre of the universe for cruisers waiting to make the jump west to Fiji or south to New Zealand. Sadly, Big Mama’s was severely damaged by Cyclone Gita in February 2018 but has slowly been rebuilt and is now back in business.
|Big Mama's Yacht Club|
An end of season farewell bash for cruisers put on by owners Ana and Earle is a tradition here. The food is laid on big time including the traditional Tongan pig roast.
Entertainment was provided by the Tonga Police Band and everyone, locals and cruisers alike took to the sandy dance floor, rocking the night away. We were chuffed to be able to attend this annual dinner given that we usually miss out on such events by 24 hrs as a rule.
Left ; Karen from Where 11 and Sylvia from Cinnabar. I'm in the middle. Right ; Matt with Karen and Tom with Sylvia
Above and Right: A typical Tongan feast with Roast suckling pig. Liam was enjoying filling his plate.
Below: The Tongan Police band belting out the hits while everyone danced the night away. Liam displayed some of hid best moves.
Over the coming week we topped up our dwindling fruit and veg supplies, did a quick walk around the capital of the country, Nuku'alofa, organized our clearance papers and the purchased duty free fuel which in itself was no mean feat.
|Local fish market selling giant squid|
|The fuel arrives|
|Matt (Where11) and Liam checking out the archaic hand pump|
|Matt cranking away to fill the jerry cans while Liam poured them into our fuel tanks|
|Chilling after filling the fuel tanks and 14 jerry cans|
We’d ordered 600 L of diesel, 200 of which friends on Where11 bought off us to save taking both boats over to the "not so friendly to the topsides" harbour dock. Filling our tanks was a painfully slow process as the hose on the hand pump was too short to reach our deck fillers. Solution, it had to be pumped into our 20L jerry cans first and then poured via a funnel into our tanks. All of this took hours and was done in the sweltering noon day sun.
|A grey day in the anchorage at Big Mama's|
Job finished GWTW was motored back over to Big Mama’s anchorage to sit out the strong winds forecast for the following few days. We also had to keep a low profile as technically once the duty free fuel is on board you are actually supposed to leave the country. So we stayed under the radar for 3 days by turning off the transponder on our AIS (automatic identification system) which is monitored by the marine authorities and kept our VHF radio chatter to a minimum and definitely did not use our boat name over the airwaves.
Having said our goodbyes to fellow cruisers as some would be heading to Fiji for cyclone season while others would be making landfall in various parts of New Zealand, it was time to go. With the forecast of a good weather window, we departed the anchorage off Big Mama's and headed eight miles further west to an anchor on the back side of Ata Island. This would be our jumping off point from Tonga for an early morning departure the next day.
|Sails are up and off we go|
At 0600 November 7th we raised the anchor for the last time in Tonga and motored out through the reef break to raise the sails and point our bows towards the land of the long white cloud, New Zealand.
Tonga had been a great experience for us, one that we’ll remember for a long time to come, even though the weather had played havoc with our cruising plans at times.
In our humble opinion the Kingdom of Tonga definitely lived up to it’s well deserved name of “The Friendly Isles”
If the conditions allow we’ve planned to make a intermediate stop on our 1200 mile journey for a few days at Minerva Reef, some 250 miles south of Tonga.
But for now it’s goodbye to the tropics and the sensational South Pacific until June 2019
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