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Neiafu, Tonga

Our second day of sailing was fairly uneventful. The wind did gradually drop putting us into the edge of the zone where we could raise the Code Zero. We waited a long time before raising it not wanting to have to bring it down again soon, losing a few miles in the process. We did eventually raise it and took off at a much faster speed for a few hours. Shortly after dark the wind picked up rather quickly and we had to bring it down with a little bit of a struggle.

At dawn land was sighted. As we passed the north end of the islands the wind again dropped. This time we raised the main only to find it had torn – probably during the storm when we struggled to lower it. Fortunately there is a sail maker here who we’ll have look at the sail and patch it up ready for our trip to NZ.

Around noon we were tied up to the wharf here in Neiafu. Within moments we had three officials aboard (immigration, port captain and quarantine I think) to have us fill out practically the same information into separate forms. I was then asked to go ashore to get some cash to pay for their services. Leaving Ben and Helen aboard I took the short walk to the bank and obtained cash – and an ice cream for my troubles. I’d passed a fruit market so before going to the officials I let Helen know and funded her for a trip.

Back with the officials I met the customs officer with whom I had to again return to the boat to complete paperwork. Then it was off to pay them all their various fees.

Once done and cleared into Tonga we found a spot to anchor amongst very many boats moored / anchored here. We soon were in touch with a few friends, quite a few of them leaving today/tomorrow for ports west.

We were keen to go ashore and were soon in the dinghy and on our way. We headed to the nearest bar, calling themselves the Vavau Yacht Club and tied the dinghy there. Our first stop was the Moorings base where we met the sail maker and agreed to drop the head sail off there the following day. Next it was the Aquarium Cafe where, with great delight, we picked up our water maker part.

We walked the main street to see what was there. We learned that the Giggling Whale had a string band and dancing that evening and booked a table. Feeling hungry with had a bite to eat further down the road. We discovered that the cell phone rates to the US were incredibly cheap so I bought a SIM card for our phone so we can sort a few things out soon. Neiafu is not huge but there seems to be things going on each night of the week so we won’t be short of things to do here.

We headed back to the dinghy and had a beer at the bar there before returning to the boat for a couple of hours. By the time we had returned to the Giggling Whale the place was packed. We managed to get the last table. The music was already playing. For a tip one could sit with the musicians and would be offered some cava – a local drink containing no alcohol but some mild narcotic which leaves the tongue a little tingly. Again there were a number of cruisers here we knew and we spent some time catching up.

The dancing turned out to be the young kids (4 til teens) from a nearby village who were raising money for their education. They did a number of pieces which were all very entertaining – especially the little kids. The dances were somewhat familiar with their hand movements for the women and more energetic dancing for the men. Noticeably, the bum wiggling apparent east of us was missing.

We all ended up having steak which turned out good. Around 9:30pm (very late for us, especially after a passage) we headed down the road to Tonga Toms to watch the (pronounced) Faka Ladies although I understand it is spelt ‘Fake’. We met Shirley, Taffy and Colin from The Road here – another boat leaving Thursday. The ‘ladies’ took their time to start their show so we enjoyed the atmosphere and a few more beers. Ben found some folks his own age and was able to get away from us for a bit. The show was a series of individual acts by large chaps frocked up. Their antics made the crowd wild with more than a little wondering around the audience. It was a lot of fun.

It was nearly midnight by the time we were back aboard the boat and it took us only seconds to sleep.

Today, once our headaches subside, is a work day. We have to remove the mainsail and take that to the sail maker. The we have to fix the water maker which could be a small or large job depending on ease of access, etc. We’ll see. There are other small bits and pieces to sort out too which we should get on with.

Bosun Birds

Ed came and picked us up around 1:30pm and was happy to take the fish we’d caught in the morning. After us he picked up Taffy, Shirley and Colin from The Road and we all went to the village ashore. The previous days catch of birds were penned up in a net surrounding. At 2pm they were all counted and Simon did the arithmetic to decide how many birds each family could take. On his call a member from each family jumped in the enclosure and started tossing the birds out into their wheelbarrows. The birds of course squawked and screeched but were so docile they just sat in a heap in their barrows.

We walked back to Simon and Eds family area and began helping with preparing the birds. Each one had it’s neck wrung – Ben even managed one – followed by plucking where we all took a bird and did our bit. Once the birds were down to fluff they lit a fire, stuck a stick down the throat of the birds and singed all the remaining fluff off the bird.

Shortly after about 6-8 scrawny chickens met their end. Ben again assisted sending one of them to it’s maker – this time with a machete. Although we weren’t expecting lunch yesterday Ed laid it one. More fish of course. Ben was a bit late as he’d been helping out plucking a couple of chickens and husking some coconuts. We were again bloated. It was nice to have the company of the crew from The Road. Being their first day on the island they were amazed by their experience already.

The afternoon wore on and before we knew it it was after 6pm. Ed took us all back to the boats. We’d all agreed to have drinks aboard Dignity to catch up. Ed joined us for a bit. The evening didn’t finish until nearly midnight whereby many beers, bottles of wine and a whole bottle of rum had been polished off.

This morning we all woke with a hangover – no surprise. Ed picked us up to go to church followed by lunch – Bosun bird, chicken and a variety of gooey side dishes. The birds tasted ok but were a little too fishy for us. Not having much room inside us we were filled fairly quickly. After lunch we laid back and chatted some more and eventually asked Ed to take us back to our boats. We are all very exhausted.

We are hoping to leave tomorrow but the winds are extremely light right now. The forward weather picture is a little complicated so we won’t be making the decision to leave until the morning.

Right now it’s time for Siesta.

Life in Palmerston

We’ve had a busy couple of days here on Palmerston.

On Thursday we were taken ashore mid morning. We were ferried in, again, by our host Edward. This time he picked up Ken and Laurie from Trim moored next to us. We had a brief chat with them before Helen, Ben and I went to the shore to snorkel in the crystal clear warm waters surrounding the island. Apart from the usual, but abundant, crowd of fish we saw a small turtle and two dead sharks. The sharks get it from the villagers. I assume because the sharks are competing for the same fish the villagers eat they get a bash on the head if they get too close.

Back ashore we all had a shower using collected rainwater. This was especially pleasant as we can’t have showers aboard as a result of the broken water maker. We then headed back to the school as it was now the lunch break and we had a few bits and pieces to give the school. From the school we walked to the beach on the south side and round to Tere’s house which is just finishing construction and is the nicest on the island. It even has a guest house on the beach which looks very romantic.

We had more fried wahoo for lunch which was just as tasty and just as filling.

In the afternoon we hung around Edwards home with his family and Ken and Laurie from Trim. Shirley, Edward’s wife, brought out some juice and rum (from Trim) which we supped and mellowed out. Occasionally we would wander around. Edward was cutting branches off a mahogany tree to trade with a friend for goods. The five little piglets running around were quite a draw. We were given some barbecued wahoo to take back to the boat which we later ate. It was delicious.

On Friday we went ashore to take a look at the laptops and printers which had been reported to have problems. Ben came up with most of the answers but in some cases the problems were trivial (out of ink/out of paper).

We again had wahoo for lunch but this time we had it steamed and it came with doughnuts of which Ben ate about 5. There were still many left and we eventually went back to the boat we were given a plateful. They surely want to fatten us up.

Around mid afternoon Ben and I were picked up to help Edward and his two sons, John and David, fish for parrot fish on the reef. They laid out a net across a shallow part of the reef while we circled round to scare the parrot fish in. The first time we didn’t catch anything which may have been partly due to Ben and my inexperience. We felt bad when the fish got past us and not into the net.

The next time, with a little help from another father and son, we caught 19 parrot fish. Even then, the rest of them took over leaving Ben and I at the back feeling a little spare. But we probably helped a bit.

Next stop was fishing rods on the reef. I lost my hook, bitten off by a baby shark and nearly caught something else but I don’t know what. Ben managed to catch a pretty big relative of a grouper which we gave to the family. They’d caught two tiny ones so we felt as though we’d contributed.

That evening, as with the previous two, we pushed on with watching The Lord of the Rings extended edition until we felt too tired to continue.

Our plan had been to leave Saturday morning. However, we learned that on Saturday morning Edward and his sons would be going out to catch birds on one of the other islands along with the other families from the village. Furthermore, if we were around at 2pm we would count towards his families share of the overall catch. Furthermore, these birds were considered a treat and we would be fed some if we were here on Sunday. So we’ve decided to stay on until Monday morning.

This morning, Ben and I were picked up around 6:30am and were taken across the Lagoon to one of the unoccupied motus. The birds are actually preflight chicks about the size of a small hen. The younger ones are left and only the ones big enough are taken. One just grabs them by their head and stuffs them in a sack. The family knew where to look and bagged all the birds. Ben and I added moral support. In their boat the birds were left to sit in the bottom where they puked up the bits of fish they had earlier eaten. This, apparantly, was edible. I though David was joking when he said we could eat it but it turned out to be true as Edward ate some later. Yach.

On the way back to the main island we spotted another sailboat on the way in. We stopped off at the main island to drop the birds and David off and headed back to Dignity. Edward and John hung around for a while. He knew he could get to the boat first as the other hosts had left it til later to hunt their birds. The boat turned out to be The Road last seen by us in Huahine. They’d had a long sail from Bora Bora without their autopilot and were hence tired. I agreed to go with Edward and join them in case they needed extra help coming in. By now we had humpback whales in the vicinity. I kept only seeing their splashes. Even when I was aboard The Road and they were breaching nearby I kept missing them. Oh well.

Once The Road was safely moored Edward took me back to Dignity. Ben and I headed off to the reef with our spear guns and soon had snagged 5 large parrot fish which we intend to give to Edward – hopefully making up for the lost fish from our first attempt yesterday. The snorkeling was excellent which pursuaded Helen to come out with us for a bit even though she’d just washed her hair. The visibility was excellent and by the reef there were lots of underwater fissures to explore. There were a few white tip sharks swimming around but they were more scared of us.

This afternoon, at 2pm, the birds will be shared out. We should be going ashore to watch this event. Then they’ll have their necks massaged (to death), be plucked, fired then frozen ready for the feast tomorrow.

Back to Fare

Mid morning we upped anchor and quickly raised the head sail to plod slowly up inside the reef. We had about a knot of current so despite less than ideal sailing conditions we managed to average around 4 knots. We were on the lookout for a spot to go snorkeling before lunch. In the end we decided to anchor near the green marker south of Motu Vaiorea – that’s the little island to the west of the gap between the north and south islands comprising Huahine.

After waiting out some rain we headed over to the green marker to see what the conditions were like. The bottom looked fair but the current made the spot untenable. Should have thought about that. We headed over to our plan B which was on the south side of Motu Vaiorea. Here we found a nice shallow area with plenty of living coral and fish. We had the spear gun with us which Ben and I shared. There were no suitable fish to eat so as usual we ended up taking the odd pot shot. Ben managed to bag a fish which was promptly scoffed by an eel which yanked it right off the spear. While out we saw the largest and most fascinating sea slug we’ve seen to date. It was nearly two feet long and covered in star shaped protrusions. It’s underside had thousands of little red legs. I have no books to look this creature up but hopefully one day we’ll be able to identify it.

After lunch and a rest we again raised the anchor and hoisted the head sail only and sailed to Fare. We had a little mishap on arrival. We hadn’t raised the dinghy and had towed it from our dive spot. When close maneuvering on the motors we pull the dinghy in and tie it close to prevent the line from getting wrapped in the props. Once we had anchored I asked Ben to release the dinghy. Which he did. While focusing on other things we received a call on the radio from Shirley on The Road to say our dinghy was adrift. Her husband Taffee was already in his dinghy and chasing ours down which was rapidly making distance as a result of the winds we were in. Fortunately all ended up well.

We met Shirley and Taffee again at Happy Hour. We learned that the dancing we’d been told about was live music instead which we weren’t so up to. After Happy Hour we went for some local food before heading back to the boat for the evening.

Weather permitting, today we’re heading over to Raritea. We managed to speak to Sea Mist on the SSB yesterday and have agreed to rendezvous where they are so we can hand over a dive computer Ben brought from the US.