Children with Matt and JanBart

 Superted V

Blog & Photos - October 2012

1st to 4th October -Tonga - Spent time between a couple of the northern group of islands - Vavau'u - one night we had another storm and spent our time motoring around the anchorage from 2am until dawn to try to avoid collisions with other boats!

5th October - We had the opportunity to swim with Humpback whales - what an amazing experience. It was a perfect day after some rather stormy weather and we were able to swim with a mother and calf - the mother (all 30 odd tons of her) was so cool and just hung around in the water whilst the (we think 1 week old) calf played around us. Fantastic! This is one of the major tourist attractions of Tonga and the operators and their staff have to undergo special training and adhere to guidelines which are designed to cause minimum impact to the whales. We were very impressed with the company we went with - very professional and concerned to ensure that the whales were not stressed by our presence. We also did 4 dives with the same company.

6th October - Tongan feast at Lapi Island. This island has a small, very friendly community who hold a 'Tongan Feast' for tourists every fortnight. The money they collect by donation goes directly back to the community and so far has helped build a concrete dock and now they're hoping to build a floating dock. Everyone in the village is paid for their efforts from the guys who roast the pigs to the old ladies who make the garlands. They are currently in the process of installing solar panels on each property - these being paid for by the Japanese. Although it's a great help to them, you do have to wonder if they are selling the family silver - maybe in exchange they have to vote with the Japanese in the UN - supporting the killing of whales - the very heart of their own tourist business.

7th - 13th October - Spent more time on some of the islands in the northern group before heading off on 13th for the Hapaii group - the middle group of Tonga. Had a great sail down to Ha'ano where we spent a couple of days. Unfortunately there was quite a large swell so snorkeling was out of the question. Instead we went ashore, taking some clothing and spare food with us which we gave to one of the local minister's wives to share out. On the way back from a very long walk, the minister and his wife called us to his house to ask if we would like to come in for a rest. He and his wife had laid out a mat in the garden and proceeded to feed us fish and chips - Tongan style - and fresh coconut milk! We learned more about the Tongans and their culture. It's a very poor nation with minimal facilities but very friendly people. This island has around 100 people and 7 churches! We went to church on one of the islands to hear the legendary singing - they have no musical accompaniments but sing beautifully in harmony. Unfortunately we picked the wrong church - the service was extremely long, starting with a Sunday school for a dozen children where the minister's wife took a long stick to several of the children, and the service was full of Hellfire and Brimstone which the minister shouted at the top of his voice to the 13 strong congregation - would've been good to understand what he was talking about! Great singing though - and another great experience - apart from the stick! Despite this discipline, the children in these islands are always cheerful and happy - they love to have their photo taken and see the result on the camera.

14th - 31st October - This month has seen a 'sorting out' of food - what we can and can't take into New Zealand. Some of the goodies I know we can't take in and we won't be able to use up, we have given to local people. Otherwise we've been having get-togethers with other cruisers for dinner to use up supplies. We've had 'Food- bay' - so far i've swopped coffee for eggs and coca cola for onions! On the sunnier days we have seen thermals and winter clothing and blankets hanging out on the boats in readiness for our passage to New Zealand - it's going to feel pretty cold after nearly 4 years in the tropics. The other day we had another squall come through - this time we were in a very protected lagoon surrounded by coral and in the lee of an island so had minimal impact on us, but we had friends who had stayed in anchorage we just left and they recorded gusts of 56 knots - not a fun place to be. It's also been a period of monitoring and discussing the weather very carefully. Every day we download grib files, spot forecasts and text analyses as well as listening to a forecaster on SSB based in New Zealand. The nice predictable pattern of highs and lows which allow you to plan reasonably well, are not behaving themselves as yet. We have 1200 miles to go on this last passage and need to get it right! We know we will have to go though at least one front but the advice is to take it about 30 degrees latitude where, hopefully, it will be at it's weakest. As I sit here typing this we are in a trough and convergence zone with no wind whatsoever and just waiting for it to pick up a bit before we make the decision to go. 31st October - Halloween - boat kids dress up and go 'Tricking or Treating'. A couple of them sang us a beautiful song in German!

                                          Lat and Long   31 October:

                                          S20.16.5995 W174.48.2412