Thursday, 31 October 2013

Minerva: We made it!

It took longer than we expected, but we are now tucked away in Minerva Reef!
Tucked away is a bit of a strong word, considering we're anchored next to a
fringing reef that peeks above the water surface only here and there.

It was so strange as we approached, and all we could see were a few boats bobbing in the middle of nowhere. It is only as you get
near the reef that you see some coral. Now inside the reef, it's nice and flat and the wind has died down to nothing. Rick is off
helping our buddies on Dreamtime with their starter motor, and I'm reorganizing the boat for the couple days we'll be here. We may
leave Sunday or Monday for New Zealand. Depending on the weather information we gather.

We didn't get through this first leg unscathed, but we're luckier than some of the boats that have gotten here. (You know how it
goes, things break, or bend in our case.) We had our anchor get just loose enough to cause some cosmetic damage at the bow, and the
combination of the force of the waves and a loose anchor bent one of the uprights of the bow pulpit. Something else to add to the
list. This mishap makes me feel a little sick, because I attached the safety line in the wrong spot and that may have caused the
anchor to get loose. We heard a weird noise while under weigh, but it took a while to locate it and remedy the situation.

Then again, our buddies are having engine troubles, and someone else's backstay adjuster broke on the way here. We got off easy
comparatively. Passages can be hard on boats. This crew is just tired now. And quite happy for this little break on the way to New
Zealand. The first leg is done. Only 700+ nautical miles to go!

Position: 23* 37.550'S 178* 54.033'W

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Minerva Day 1: so long tropics

Is it time to say goodbye flip flops? Well, it's true that we are saying
goodbye to the tropics for the time being. Luckily we'll be in New Zealand for
the beginning of summer, we can hang on to those flip flops a little while
longer... And perhaps the transition won't be too much of a shock!

We're on our way to Minerva Reef, where we'll stop before going on
to New Zealand. We had plenty of wind yesterday (we saw up to 27 knots,
not too shabby) and today we're down to 17 knot winds from the south-
east. Nyon is rocking and rolling, the old girl is working hard. We're making
great time and hope to get to Minerva by tomorrow morning. That'll leave us
another 700 or so nautical miles to get to Opua, NZ.

There were blue streaks breaking apart the clouds this morning and the sun
peeked through. Now the sky is a milky shade of grey. This passage already
feels pretty routine, in a bouncy way. I'm glad we decided to stop at Minerva,
it'll give us a chance to catch our breath, pre-cook more food, make a few
adjustments and ready ourselves for a weather window that'll take us right into

The following information was taken at 0615 NZST on October 31.

Position: 22* 06.600'S 176* 51.697'W
Distance since departure: 124 nm
Heading: 231*T
Speed: 6.4 knots

Sunday, 27 October 2013

island life: the ben and lisa way

View east of Fetoko Island
There is a little island, not far from the Old Harbour. And when I say little, I mean little. It’s tucked away between Mafana and Ofu Islands, and it’s a little haven, where you can let your hair down, play with the dogs and maybe even sleep in a treehouse. The “resort” owners are Ben and Lisa, expats (who were once cruisers) and who have put roots down in Tonga for the past 10 years. A genial couple, they have enough people skills between them to fill the tiny island with 200 Palangis and Tongans if they so wish. (And they did!) It’s a mini resort, but it’s also their home, and when you go ashore to say hi, it feels like home. 

More than once I turned to Rick and said, “This is what Quadra Island would be like if it were in the tropics, (and if it were much smaller).” (Quadra Island to us has always felt like another home because of some very special people and a very special island…) Mandala Resort as they call it, however humble and lovely it is, knows how to throw a party, but they also know how to live the island life, which as I see it, is all about savouring the moment. And even for these lovers of the sea, this place makes land-life look pretty damn good. I wish I’d taken more photos, but I was too busy soaking in the vibe… Here is a small look at Fotoko Island on two very different days… Thanks Ben and Lisa, for sharing your slice of paradise with us!

The main building (in set up mode for the Vava'u Regatta)

Wandering around the 3 acres

The treehouse

We helped out for a day, as they were readying the island for
a fabulous beach party

The night the island became magic

Dressed like a girl and loving it
All kinds of excitement

Some pretty fab people (in case you're wondering: it was a dress in
white party) Left to Right: Ben (co-owner), Bri and Rob (volunteers and friends)

Saturday, 26 October 2013

recipe for a good birthday

One of Rick's many talents:
Walking on water
While we try not to, Palangis sometimes get it all wrong. In case you are Palangi stands for foreigner in the Tongan. But sometimes getting it wrong means you get to try something even if you’re a girl. Kava ceremonies are traditionally held among men in Tonga, (this is apparently not the case in Fiji). On my birthday however, Brian (SV Osprey) procured some Kava and we shared it among a few boat around a bonfire (on a deserted beach) as part of the celebration. This was an equal opportunity Kava ceremony.

Kava is a root that is ground up and mixed with water. Someone serves, it in a coconut shell, and passes it around to those present. Depending on the Kava, your limbs might go a little numb or tingly. It is a drink that relaxes without clouding mental clarity and is used in a variety of ceremonial applications. It has a very earthy taste and looks like dirty laundry water. Some say it tastes like dirt. It's not that terrible, but it is certainly not particularly tasty. Kava is woven into the fabric of many South Pacific nations, if you'd like to know more about it, click here and here. The Kava we had was not very strong, but it made our lips tingly and the next day, we were… very relaxed. I thought the tequila birthday shots may have had something to do with that, but apparently not.

Chef Jacques delivers the chicken in style

I was told to make a wish, I seem to have
taken it very seriously

Jacques recites "The Cremation of Bobby McGee"
The nerds in us loved it

This is what it looks like when you order these guys to give their
best "manly man" pose

This gal is tough
Ben combines a little tobacco pipe and
Kava for good measure

When in doubt, gather a few friendly folks, share good food and have a reading of “The Cremation of Bobby McGee” (thanks Jacques!) around a bonfire on a tropical beach, all while drinking Kava (and maybe a touch of rum or tequila). It worked for us.

Friday, 25 October 2013

a lape welcome

Path through the village
On Lape Island, the seven families living on the island make a village. In this village, they welcome visitors and twice a month they also offer a Tongan feast for guests to Tonga. This include a tour of their village. Kolio was our host and he was happy to share his world and traditions with a fairly large group of us. It felt a little strange to walk around viewing village life, even a little voyeuristic, but the experience was interesting. The feast was delicious: there was a roasted pig and many fish dishes. I didn’t take pictures of the spread but here are a few from around Lape Island.

Pretty colours

Kolio talks about his village

Kolio shows Petra (SV Dolphin of Leith) how to
bottle feed the young kid

Just because

Home sweet home

Fin (SV Dolphin of Leith) befriends the Lape children

Friday, 18 October 2013

a pastoral symphony

Aisea Beach from the boat
There is an abandoned pearl farm on Aisea Beach1 and behind it, a set of crooked concrete stairs lead up a cliff. We climbed the stairs while listening to flying foxes squawking and screeching in the bushes. These fruit bats “of an unusual size” are everywhere here.

When we reached the top, we discovered a strangely pastoral scene. Two ruts that pass for a road, run through farmlands and rolling hills dotted with mango and palm trees. Simple barbed wire fences line these fields. A work shack stands alone in one field. The fences eventually disappear as the terrain becomes wilder and becomes a forest.

First glimpse after reaching the top of the cliff

The occasional moo of a cow and the sound of chirping birds accompanied us as we made our way past the fields and into the forest on the peninsula. When we reached the water, we paused on the beach and ate a freshly cracked coconut while we counted our lucky stars.

Country roads... (There must be a song in here


Nyon loving it here

The Coconut-man in action

Enjoying a quiet moment

View from the end of the peninsula

1 Aisea Beach is on the south side of Pangaimotu, the Moorings charter company refers to this anchorage as #10.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Vakaietu in photos

Another island, another hike

Sign reads as follows:
Warning, low-tech Tsunami device. If floating, climb tree

Pretty tree decoration

The other side of the island appears
Cockpit party with the Osprey and Dragonsbane crews!

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

no green thumb necessary

A dream garden

Pretty colour
Imagine a garden that needs no planting or tending, no watering. A garden that is content when it is not jarred or turned over. One that is happiest when left undisturbed. Sounds good? The only caveat is that to enjoy this garden, you need to wear snorkeling gear and float above it. Oh, and you need to go to Tonga to see the garden I’m talking about. There is that.

We love this underwater coral reef. It joins two islands: Vaka’eitu and Nuapapu. If you anchor by Vakai’etu, you can take your dinghy to a nearby beach. 1 It’s a little intimidating to cross the shoal to go snorkel the deeper coral garden on the other side. The surf can build there and as it crashes it can send you tumbling back as you attempt to cross the shallow expanse. That surf has turned more than one would-be snorkeler around. It’s a bit of a rite of passage.

We made it through okay the first time. And once we arrived to the other side, we spent nearly 3 hours exploring the coral and pointing excitedly at new (to us) fish species. This place reminded us a little of the Tuamotus.

The next day, Rick wasn’t feeling well. I decided to go snorkel on my own. I knew a few snorkelers were already on the other side and I thought I’d join them. When I first arrived at the beach and saw the size of the surf, I gulped. That day was windier, and the waves were much bigger. I decided to go for it. Too bad my timing was poor: I got my a** kicked by two big waves. I was about to admit defeat, (one has to wonder how good an idea it was to cross that bit alone). Luckily the SV Dragonsbane crew came along to dive the reef and by then, the waves had become a little less daunting (perhaps it was the company). I joined their crew, and crossed over to the magic garden once more.

A kettle fish? (I don't have my fish bible beside me)

A new variety of Hawkfish

Nemo's cousin: An Anemonefish
standing guard

Enjoying the scenery

More Anenomefish, (I think I'm in love)

This is my kind of garden...

This one we'll name Rex. He showed me his teeth.

1 The Vaka’eitu anchorage is referred to as Anchorage #16 by the Moorings charter company.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

first glimpse of tonga: neiafu

Why did the pig cross the road? We have no idea.
Though it's a common sight in Tonga!

The mooring field, and a little Rick rowing back to Nyon, (the
little one at the back)

Walking around town: School is out

The harbour front (we checked in at the dock on the far far right

Sunday, 13 October 2013

a month of tonga

We've been tongaing for 30 days. We had to renew our visas, since we're still
here. The Vava'u Group has been very forthcoming; it's been hard to leave.

It is time to prepare for a (possible) hop south to Nuku'alofa (in Tongatapu)
before our crossing to New Zealand. (Or we may leave directly from Vava'u, the
decision hasn't been made yet.) Everyone is trying to make sense of the weather
patterns in the area and talking about good weather windows. The seasons, they
are a'changing.

It feels like we are nearing the end of a chapter. And we are. Our plan is to
settle down in New Zealand for a while. A place with a little more stability,
where it's easier to be in touch with loved ones and focus on other projects, is
quite appealing right now. It's time to recharge the batteries and fill the
cruising kitty. (We hope to get work visas.)

We've been squeezing Tonga for all its worth. We've explored many islands,
snorkelled a lot, marked a birthday complete with bonfire on the beach and a
Kava ceremony.(Thanks Osprey for the Kava! And thanks to Rick, Dragonsbane,
Kyanos,and Red Sky Night for a great night.) We found many reasons for
revelling, but we also had too many items added onto our chore list. It seems
that as we near the end of this leg, things are breaking more often, and we are
dropping things in the water far too frequently. I think it is burn-out. Nyon is
dog-tired, and so are we. We have loved this journey across the Pacific, but we
need a break.

Having said all that, exploring Tonga has been great fun. We hope to share some
of it with you soon. It's been impossible for us to post photos on the blog, our
laptop is on the fritz and won't connect to the Internet. We are sending this
post via SAT e-mail. Bear with us: we'll share a few stories before we leave

A shout-out to our Canadian families and friends: Happy Thanksgiving! There is a
lot to be grateful for, yet we miss you all so very much! With love, from Tonga.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

will you play with me?

This video is from many thousand nautical miles ago... Back in Mexico, we made some friends, and they were unforgettable!


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