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The Kingdom of Tonga
We're here! Tonga! The tiny kingdom in mid-Pacific is a sailor's paradise with sheltered coves for swimming, snorkeling, diving, sailing, or just hanging. There's a 4-month residency of cruisers who make Tonga their season's goal, moving slowing from island to island, meeting friends and enjoying the lazy days. In addition, Antarctic whales, including Humpbacks, overwinter here, allowing visitors to swim with whales, one of the few places on earth where this is still allowed.
A two-day passage from Niue had us arrive on Sunday and on Sunday it's illegal for anyone to do any work at all, including customs, immigration and such. We spent the day resting from our trip but, of course, we couldn't go ashore. Welcome to Neiafu, Vava'u, Tonga!
Monday morning, we did chores aboard, and then made arrangements to check into Tonga. We dropped the mooring, hoping that it would be available when we returned, and motored to the main dock and awaited the officials. Each ate cookies and drank soda while aboard, each taking his time to complete the work. Still, it required only two hours for the process and we had been prepared to spend up to four: we got off lightly.
Winds to almost 40 knots, seas to 12 feet: it was not the most pleasant crossing we have made. I awoke from my off-watch to see Conni able to smile after her watch in this snot. We both think that it was easier when we couldn't see it! The boat speed and seas actually broke the 1/2-inch line for our water generator! It has its head turned away from the seas, at right.
Our first glimpse of Tonga's northern coast in early morning's light was sobering. These cliffs are up to 500-ft and uninviting to a boat.
This headland, appropriately but unpoetically named White Spot, is a good example of the northern coast.
Monday morning finds us at the main town dock of Neiafu. The Spanish boat behind us was a participant in the ARC Around the World Rally. The boat was crewed by four Spanish men and they were taking on fuel for their passage to Fiji.
Our four friends from other shores invited us to dinner at the Aquarium Cafe. What fun! At left are Hans, the lovely Veronica (a triathlete), and Lif. At right are Peter, Bill, and Conni. Hans and Lif are a couple from Oslo, Norway, on their Jeanneau 53, Andante. Peter and Veronica are from Australia aboard their Privilege 495, LBO 3. All four are simply outstanding people. All are interesting, accomplished, and sharp.
Conni strolls in front of the Aquarium Cafe the next morning. LBO had already departed for Fiji, while Andante leaves on Friday and we leave on Saturday.
A great view of the mooring field with Wings' almost dead center, with the blue sail cover. The mooring are 15 Tongan dollars a night: about US$7, a deal. With that, we get Wifi and on-shore privileges.
A cargo freighter arrives with supplies for the island of Vava'u and its harbor at Neiafu.
A Tongan home, complete with pigs, laundry, and a boat. One does not need a lot of house, here.
Vava'u Ministry of Commerce with its interesting roof and broken gates. The signpost at left has arrows to many of the great destinations of the world, including Los Angeles.
Downtown Nieafu with its narrow streets and laid-back residents.
The complete mooring field with its fifty or so sailboats from everywhere. There were two from the US, and one had even been in Juneau.
A blog is created at the Tropicana Cafe. Conni and I spent an hour working on email, weather, and other Internet tasks. An iced coffee went down well.
Neiafu's Post Office was closed when we tried to buy stamps for our postcards. The one-and-only postal worker was out, so no stamps. Two snotty grade school girls in their uniforms sit at right in the shade.
Neiafu's library building proclaims an effort to reach as many as possible. They were open and doing brisk business. Send them books.
Conni strolls through a small shopping district while some uniformed girls skip in the opposite direction.
Lots of space for expansion in this store. It was clean but had few items. Many were from Malaysia and many from China.
The main Catholic church in Neiafu was the source of beautiful singing when we arrived on Sunday morning. Remember the end-of-year donations to the church and the posting of donations by amount?
The dinghy docks for Aquarium and Beluga Divers are in the middle. Neiafu is not a large place and the population of Vava'u is only 10,000 or so we were told.
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