Monday, September 27, 2010


Hey everyone out there.

Just to let you know we have been involved in Regatta Vavau this past week, with a couple of fun races.

We came second in our first race ever after stalling on the start line and starting basically last and missing a mark mid race.
We then came first out of the other five cruising catamarans on the Saturday race. We had lots of fun and will get photos and full coverage up asap.

Heading to Fiji Friday (ish) for a few weeks. Should take us 4 days with nice wind. Apparently internet is even harder where we are going than it is here, so you may have to wait awhile for further posts sorry.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Rylees Photos

Here are some of Rylees photos from his camera.

Rylee at Taunga Island at sunset.

Taunga island sunset. We had not long arrived! Note that you can see the other side of the island through the coconut palms.

Swallows Cave. Misnamed by Cook, but it is full of little birds. We haven't been in there yet, but plan to before we leave.

A slightly different take on a sunset. Rylee pointed out to us as we were enjoying the sky that you could also see the reflexion in the sea!

Some VERY LARGE sea slug thing that Rylee found in the Ha'apai and brought back to the boat. It was quite cute when its eyes and antenna came out, but very warty looking, somethink I can imagine a witch would need for a special spell!

Rylees shot of him and Oliver dressing up as Pirates.

Grrrr, got his pirate face on!

Oliver and Dan fishing in the Ha'apai. Perhaps the relaxed mode of feet up fishing is why we havn't had much success yet.

Photos from Olivers Camera

Here are a few photos from Olivers camera. I have really been impressed with the creativity of all the kids photography, but I am putting on the more recognisable images this time.

This is the wreak on the beach at Nomuka Iki. This was taken in back in July.

A photo of the waterfront of Neiafu. The hotel, which doesn't seem to be in use is right on the water with the Catholic Church up behind.

The village on Pangaimotu that looks out onto the first lot of buoys for the harbour entrance.

Oliver is really into his sunsets. This was in the Ha'apai group back in July, one that gave a very impressive show.

The first part of the same sunset.

A really cool photo I think. Not even sure where he took this, but love the effect.

Rylee and Oliver dressing up, with tattoos from Pirate Pearl.

The table of food from our party with John for his birthday. Amazing what you can whip up in Tonga! Looks just like an NZ feast.

Oliver surfing down the screen of Div II on a sweatshirt. Dad let him do it.

Oliver up in the rig. The Mainsail doesn't go up much around here, usually we just island hop under genoa.

Our NZ Ensign flag, flying proud.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Few Photos to go with the story

Dan and kids fishing in the rock pools on the Eastern side of Kenutu, and eastern Island in the Vava'u group. What the picture doesn't really show is that even though it was settled weather and low tide, quite big waves were coming over the rocks and right up into the pool they were standing in at times.

This photo doesn't do the scene justice, but it was a deeper area of water surrounded by shallows that appeared to create its own private swimming pool. The colours were amazing.

Paige having a bath on the boat. She was very misarable at this time, with what I think was the mumps, so we gave her this treat and a bit of pampering to make her feel better.

A little island showing the "Tongan Dirt". A local palangi runs a T-Shirt business that uses the dirt to die shirts a golden brown, then prints local artist designs on them. Very lovely but at $50 each a bit out of our budget.

The little mushroom rock off of the end of the island.

Olivers art work. After each snorkelling session he comes back and draws pictures of the fish he has seen. Here he cut some out and made a stick up picture out of them.

Oliver with a couple of poor sea cucumbers. I know I talk about the Chinese taking them but the kids were playing at catching practice with these ones!

The kids playing in their own private aquarium.

Another shot of the eastern side of Kenutu.

Between Kenutu and the little islet south. Amazing watching the waves come through, and again that was on a settled low tide time. But I don't think I would want to be too close when a big sea is running through.

Cruising in Vava'u

I am writing this sitting in Neiafu Harbour, Vava’u, while Division II is on a mooring for 10 days while Dan is on another boat headed for Fiji, helping a friend with the delivery and getting the boat up on hardstand when it gets there. The kids and I are just hanging out here, they are currently over on another kid boat playing with just turned 11 year old twin boys. They have taken off with the dinghy as they often do so if I want to go anywhere I would have to swim. Another dingy or kayak for next cruising season will be getting up there on the ‘need to have’ list.
I can’t remember where I left off on our last blog entry but I think since I last wrote we went out and about the outer islands on a couple of trips, one for about a week and another for about five days. On the longer trip we stopped at Mala Island, which is meant to be great snorkelling, but for us we found the current to be quite prohibitive and a lot of the coral has been damaged. We have heard this has happened because of the tsunami last season and the cyclone earlier this year, but still lots of colourful fish which was cool. We also found lots of mandarin trees and helped ourselves to some, but despite being a nice bright orange colour, they were still very bitter.
The following morning as it was high tide we decided to go across the reef there instead of the long way around, which was fine for us being shallow draft. The visibility was not great as the sun was still quite low, but we could see really well out our starboard side, so I just had to be extra careful lookout on the port hull. After getting across we then just floated over to the end on Pangaimotu Island while having our breakfast, then spent a great day on a virtually deserted beach. One boat load of locals did come to do a sea cucumber harvest, and we asked them some questions about it like how long they took to get the size they were, but they didn’t seem to know anything about their life cycle, only that they would get $30 TOP for a 10 litre bucket of gutted cucumbers. When you gut them there isn’t much left of them and in a few hours around the low tide they seemed to decimate the local population of cucumbers. After several swims we decided we would head around to Tapana Island for the night as it would be a more secure anchorage only a few miles away. When we got around the corner however we saw there were at least 10 other boats anchored in the area so we changed course and headed further south to Taunga Island. This was a great anchorage for us on the eastern side, only 2m deep and really calm in the conditions, the no wind also meant it took us a long time to get there and it was nearly sunset before we were even anchoring.
The following morning we had a toilet issue, so the kids and I left Dan to it while we went and explored the beach and island. The island had a really narrow piece that you could stand on one beach and look through the coconut trees to the other side. On the western side it was also quite shallow and very sheltered. The kids were playing in the shallows and saw a sea snake that obviously got a fright as he burrowed into the sand to get away from them. We had a beach comb and found a buoy and some jandals which we then gave to some passing fisherman as they were motoring past. By lunchtime the sun was in the right place for us to attempt the fanua tapu pass through the reef so we could explore the eastern islands. This wasn’t too bad as again drawing very little we passed straight over any coral bombs we saw and it was settled weather so the edges of the reef were easily indentified. We did have a monohull following us and when we talked to them later in the day they suggested we have a “Do not follow us” bumper sticker! As soon as we were through the pass we saw what looked like a seal mucking around in front of us, but soon realise it was a manta ray. We sailed past it, then furled the Genoa and used the motors to quietly move back towards it to have a closer look. As we were all standing on the bow looking at it on the top of the water it came over to us and did a big flip upside down across the front of the bow then slowly headed away. That was really cool and then to top it off about five minutes later, Oliver had been put up in the bosons chair as a lookout and pointed out something he initially thought might have been another manta ray, but ended up being a huge turtle who popped his head up, took one look at us then quickly, with a lot of splashing, dove down to avoid us.
For the next two nights we hung out at Kenutu Island, where Dan and the kids did some climbing to get to some rock pools on the eastern (wild) side of the island. We also walked between a couple of Islands at low tide and had our own private swimming aquariums, with eels, all sort of fish and heaps of sea cucumber. What I really enjoyed about that walk was the differences between the sheltered side of the islands and where the waves came crashing through between them. In a very short distance there was different seaweed, rock formations, coral and sea animals. On our second night there we also attempted a cook out, some things better went better than others. The two glasses of wine went down very well, the sweet potato in tin foil worked quite well, and was really tender underneath the burnt bits, but the shell fish we had collected wasn’t so good, being quite tough and ending up very sandy, as by the time we were all sorted it had got dark, but we will learn for next time!
After Kenutu we headed back through the pass, to Old Harbour, so Dan could walk over the hill to top up a fuel can as we needed to run the generator. Paige went with him and the boys and I had a boat day as my stomach was a bit precarious and I didn’t want to be too far from a toilet. On the way back Dan and Paige ended up in a taxi, as the roads here are not as you would expect as to logical lay out and they ended up quite a way from the dingy after an already long walk. We also didn’t want to stay the night in this anchorage after stories from friends about holding being tenuous so we headed to Ofu. This island only has a small area for anchorage also and it took us a couple of attempts until we were happy with our holding as the shelf drops away really quickly into very deep water. While we were doing this about three whales were breeching just to the south of us and putting on a great show, but as Murphy’s Law would have it they stopped just as we were set and able to spend time watching them properly. The village here was very well kept from what we could see from the boat but in the morning when the boys and I went for a snorkel we found we couldn’t easily get to the beach as the coral went right up to the water’s edge.
From there we headed back to the Island where we had had the feast at the school to give them some photos, but when we got there the wind was blowing in such a way as to make it quite uncomfortable to anchor by the village wharf, so we headed to Vaka’eitu, another popular well protected anchorage. Friends of ours from Germany, who we had met in Whangarei, were there and we went over for what ended up several glasses of home brew and wine, as well as chocolate and chips and all lovely things, as well as great company and good stories told. The kids put up with Mum and Dad being a lot giggly by the time we headed back to the boat in the dark and a very ad hoc tea! After such a solid sleep we headed back over to the village we wanted to go to, but when we got there most of the villages had taken advantage of the weekend and headed to Neiafu for shopping or other islands for visiting, and we didn’t see anyone we recognised so went back to the boat and headed to Nuku, an small island that we had been to with Pirate Pearl for more snorkelling. We have decided this is our favourite place for snorkelling and variety. The kids have found a coral with resident “Nemo’s” and heading around the island close in there is lots to see and not too much current. Unfortunately I did lose my snorkel, and without fins just could not dive down the 13m to get it. Sunday was a really busy day at Nuku with charter boats, dive boats and cruisers all turning up for sunbathing and swimming. It calmed down after lunch and at that time our friends from Nelson turned up so we had a good gossip on the beach and as they were heading back to Mala we followed them for a lovely night in the resort there. Kid friendly and very relaxing it was a great place to catch up with everyone.
Back to Neiafu for a few nights to find out what was happening about the insurance jobs then we headed back out at the end of the week after renewing our visas for another month. We again went back to the village, and this time found all the kids on a cleanup day as the teacher had to be in Neiafu, so we handed out the photos to the kids that had given us such a great performance and gave the woman a few clothes that couldn’t fit in Pirate Pearls luggage, as well as a couple of boxes of jars, containers and bottles that I had cleaned out of our ‘garage’. All of these things were greatly appreciated. Unfortunately Paige didn’t come up with the boys and me as she had been complaining of a sore throat for a couple of days and had woken that morning quite swollen around her neck. I think she had mumps and her few days of swelling and not being well seems to follow the pattern expected for this. She seems to be well over it with no continuing issues.
That night we spent at a very small island called Ovalau. This island was inhabited by goats that were not the least bit timid and were quite happy for Dan and the boys to have a fire and collect coconuts and pawpaw on their island. That night as we were sorting tea I kept hearing a funny digital sounding noise and thinking it couldn’t be my cell phone as that hadn’t gone since we left NZ. It took a few minutes until we realised what we were hearing was whale song. We couldn’t hear it outside or even in the saloon, but down in the hulls it was very clear and we spent about 10 minutes with our ears up against the side of the hulls listening to the whales.
The forecast was for increasing winds up to 30 knots from the East, but we were quite comfortable where we were and felt that many of the other boats around would be heading to Neiafu and the mooring buoys so we decided to stay where we were, and then on the Sunday again headed for Nuku, this time to the western side where one boat can sit very comfortably in the lee of the island. Here we spent the next two nights, in around 5 knots if that while around each side of the island the white caps were rushing past. On the Sunday evening Dan walked out into the cockpit and made a sound that made me jump up just in time to see a massive splash. Dan said a very large whale had been fully out of the water, tail and all just as he had walked out. We watched this whale play around for about 10 minutes before it did a final blow, raised up to show its back fin then disappeared. Later that evening the kids had just gone to bed and Dan and I were playing cards when they all started talking. Being the grumpy parents we are we yelled down at them to be quite and go to sleep, but they said there was whale song again. Of course being up out of the water we couldn’t hear it, but when we went down in the hulls there it was again. The kids have taken great delight in telling people they know they were sung to sleep by a whale.
Again a trip back into Neiafu, where Dan agreed to help deliver the boat to Fiji, so this is where we have been mostly, except for one night in an anchorage just around the corner from the main harbour to run the generator for several hours to make sure the batteries were well topped up before Dan headed away. We did have a night out on another boat, when we went over for a few drinks but ended up staying as the beer/wine was flowing the kids all bunked down to sleep and we kept talking until the wee small hours. Another evening we were pleased to hear some Tongan singing begin and thought we were lucky enough to be able to hear some kind of concert. They started around 7pm and by 9pm when we were heading to bed they were still going on without seeming to have any break. At midnight I was still awake and the singing was STILL going. I was hot and bothered and not settling so moved up onto the settee to sleep in a bit of breeze. I woke again just after 3am, and guess what, they were still singing. At this stage I couldn’t decide if it was the same group of different people. Dan said it couldn’t be the same people and suggested it might be a telethon or some kind of festival. Another few hours sleep and just after 6am I was woken again by a brass band playing the same chorus and one verse of a song I knew but can’t pick over and over again. They then marched down the street to the Catholic Church, and it was obvious it was a funeral. We heard later that there was a big bon fire, with women on one side and men on the other with them singing and replying to each other for a full twelve hours. It was beautiful, but I did need some sleep too!
Starting tomorrow there is a bill fish competition and then as that finishes Regatta Vava’u will be starting which we have signed up for. This is a week of lots of activities and a couple of yacht races, so should be good. The web site for it is if anyone is interested in finding out more.
At the end of the month as our visa runs out again we will be heading over to Fiji for about four weeks so will let you know when we are on our way.