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Jumping Through Hoops

We have said our goodbyes and decided to start our checkout procedures here in Neiafu, Vava ‘u, Tonga.  With a good weather window developing for next Monday for our voyage to Fiji we decided to start looking at clearing customs, getting fuel and a few last provisions.  

First up, we learned that Tonga is not unlike many other countries and next Monday is the Tongan Emancipation Day Holiday.  So, Customs will be closed and checking out with them would require lots of extra fees. Honestly, we’ve paid them enough fee so we decided to make our visit to Customs today, Friday.  We also wanted to take advantage of duty free fuel and duty free liquor before our departure.  This will save us about $1.25 Pa’anga per liter of fuel and a bottle of 1.75 liter of Vodka regular price is $90.00 Pa’anga and duty free it’s $29.00 Pa’anga.  The fuel we could get today would fit our two fifty liter bottles and be enough for a good cushion for our travels to Fiji.  Additionally, we won’t have to wait until next Tuesday at 1030 hours for the fuel truck.  The truck requires a minimum of 200 liters for delivery to the old fishing dock.  

All the markets are owned by the Chinese. Lots of crappy plastic stuff in them.

Well, we decided to make it all happened today.  We dropped off our laundry, picked up some market supplies, some fresh veggies and some beer which is not on the duty free list.  After dropping off the supplies at Dazzler we grabbed the fuel cans and headed back to town.  We took a taxi to the fuel station. We asked for him to take us to one that took credit cards so we didn’t have to worry about running out of cash or going back to the bank. The first place didn’t have gasoline so he took us to another one down the street. Ofa, the driver, assured me they take credit cards. They didn’t but it was not a huge deal. Just meant we needed to go back to the bank again today. It seems the islanders will tell you just about anything you want to hear.

After filling our cans we headed back to Dazzler to drop off the fuel and then return to Customs.  When we arrived at Customs, the agent asked where Dazzler was located.  We said she was at the mooring and we had come to shore in our tender.  The agent requested that Dazzler be at the old fishing dock prior to clearance.  We asked if they needed to board Dazzler and her reply was “no”.  Puzzled,  we could not understand their need to see Dazzler tied at the dock if they would not be boarding her.  Anyway, we returned to Dazzler and brought her into the old fishing dock.  Fenders we’re deployed and dock lines set at the ready for docking.  Headsets are amazing for communications.  We looked like professionals as we slid her up to the dock.

Once at the dock we returned to the Customs Office to complete our checkout.  After completing the documents and receiving our exit document we walked up to the duty free liquor store to get our two bottles per person of liquor.  We weren’t given a receipt or anything but told that the store would deliver our purchase to the Customs Office for pick up.  We left wondering where our proof of purchase was and walked back to customs.  As we arrived the delivery car was pulling up to the office.  The Customs Officer kept the receipt and we walked back to Dazzler with our treasures.  We never really were told why our vessel had to be at the dock. We just follow whatever requirements the officials seem to come up with at that moment in time.  Not the time or place to get an attitude.  Just for comparison.  When we left Nuku’alofa last October, Dazzler was anchored in Pangaimotu at Big Momma’s Yacht Club when we went to Customs there for checkout.  There was never any mention of bringing Dazzler to a dock nearby.  Same country different rules.  This is not so unusual an experience during our travels.  You’d think countries would strive for a little more uniformity of procedures.  It would probably cut down on some unscrupulous agents that wear $400 designer sunglasses but you know, “not my monkey, not my circus!”

At any rate we have cleared Tonga customs, Dazzler is prepared for departure and we patiently await our departure window.  

I’m sure we will be posting along our voyage.  Hopefully Robin will not be boiled in circus wax or shot out of the cannon into the brick wall.  So stay tuned at the same Bat time….same Bat channel!

Cheers!

Captain Dan and Jilly

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We Took The Wrong Path

We woke up to yet another amazing day here in Kenutu. The weather is just perfect! It is warm but not hot and there’s always that wonderful, warm Pacific tradewind blowing. Our hostess from last evening said she met a woman who lives on the next island north. This woman told her there is another trail across the island near the north end that provides the best view of the Pacific side. It must be pretty spectacular then because what we saw yesterday was unbelievable. Of course we decided we had to try it.

The jungle is pretty thick, especially once you don’t have a trail.

We were told the trailhead started on the beach where the newly planted coconut palms were at the edge of the jungle. We took Sparkle over and anchored her to the beach. It took a few minutes to find what we believed was the trailhead but Dan was pretty sure he located it so off we went trekking through the dense jungle. 

This island is uninhabited, with the exception of maybe a few hogs. We haven’t seen any but we have seen their rootings and their dung. This path was less of a path and more of a forged trail through the dense jungle. Thank God they don’t have snakes on these islands or I would never have gone. Of course they do have spiders and lots of them but you can see them pretty easily as the sun shines through the trees. 

As we continued up and through the jungle we soon find that we are no longer on any sort of path or trail. In fact we’re pretty sure we lost it somewhere along the way but since the island is only a few hundred yards across and we can hear the ocean beating against the eastern shore we decided to continue on. Dan, the spider abater, is swinging a stick as he works his way around, over and under all the trees. Something many don’t know is that he is absolutely freaked out by spider webs. Yep, my big strong sailor man gets all furgiggly when he walks into one.

It seems like we’ve hiked for quite sometime but soon the jungle opens up into a clearing. Well, maybe not so much of a clearing as an area where it’s not so dense and you can see the open sky. We have to walk through these very dense vine-like plants that are almost waist high. I’m NOT liking it at all! I just had to try not to think about what could be lurking amongst them. The view here is nothing like what we saw yesterday so we’re pretty sure we are not where we are supposed to be but we agree that we are not going to continue to look for the trail. It’s just too dense and we’re ready to get out of here. The view, while not what we hoped, was still beautiful though.

Or maybe it was a sign leading us to our demise. You know many of the Pacific Islanders were cannibals.

After a few minutes of oohing and aahhing we trek back through the jungle, down the rocky hill and arrive on the beach again. On a tree near the entrance is some writing in Tongan. It’s literally carved into the trunk. With only a tiny grasp of the Tongan language we don’t know for sure what it said but I think I have an idea. I think it said, “We are Tongans who love to watch the Pilangi try to forge this trail. What a bunch of morons. HA HA HA!” At the top of the writing is a tiki looking figure that likely represents a Tongan laughing. I’m just saying!

Back on the beach we decide to walk to the north end to watch the waves come crashing through the opening between the islands. It comes over the reef and into the lagoon with such incredible force. WOW! That’s an amazing sight to see. The power of that water coming through there is simply mindboggling. Along the way we see lots of cool marine life including a rainbow colored crab, hundreds and hundreds of sea stars, sea cucumbers and a whole host of other stuff. Unfortunately we can’t stay long on the pointe as the tide is coming in and fast so we head back to Sparkle and then out to Dazzler.

Dan needed to make some repairs to the mainsail so he got out the sewing machine while I emptied the Engels freezer and defrosted it. I have to do that every couple of months. It doesn’t take long but needed doing and it was time. While doing it I had a memory of my grandmother defrosting the freezer when I was just a little thing. She would scrape the frost into a glass and let me eat it like it was a snowcone. I scooped some ice from our freezer and ate a few bites. It tasted exactly like I remembered. It was just like I was back there with her. What a wonderful memory!

On deck Dan was having issues with the pedal on the sewing machine. It wasn’t providing power to the machine so I was called on deck to assist. My job…crank the wheel to make the needle go up and down. Sounds like a simple task right? Well it’s not! The needle has to penetrate this incredibly heavy sail material. It took every bit of arm strength I have to rotate that wheel. Fortunately we didn’t have a lot of sewing to do. What we did have took about all I had. Of course I was rewarded with a cocktail and a beautiful sunset as I sat on the back seat of Dazzler watching the waves crash over Lolo Island. This truly is the single most beautiful place we’ve seen in all of Tonga. If there was only one place I could return to in Tonga, this would definitely be it!

Until next time,

Jilly & Dan

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The Treacherous Path To Nirvana

While we loved the anchorage near Mafana and Ofu and really wanted to visit the village in Ofu, we are so incredibly intrigued by Kenutu, Lolo and U’muna. Just watching the waves crashing over Lolo Island made us want to visit it. Also, the SV Soggypaws Compendium that we use for information about the islands says it is a must see so decided that one night here was enough and we headed out to Kenutu.

Just 9 feet of water and lots of coral upcroppings!

I don’t mind telling you that I was a bit on edge as we left and headed that way. Kenutu is on the very eastern edge of the Vava’u group of islands. The outside edge means there are reefs everywhere. And when I say everywhere, I mean EVERYWHERE! The cruise over there is a short one…maybe and hour, but the path getting there is fraught with danger. There are a couple of shoals you have to cross that get as shallow as nine feet. Dazzler only draws six but with the way bommies grow and crop up out of nowhere you never know what you will find until you are there.

Dan got on the radio with another boat that was anchored in the Kenutu anchorage. We don’t know them but can see on them on the AIS. We also see that they are almost sixty feet, which means they have a deeper draft than Dazzler so he wants to know how they got there and what they thought of the reefs. Their Captain was very kind and offered a few suggestions but none were anything Dan hadn’t already thought about. 

By 1100 hours we had pulled our anchor and were making our way toward Kenutu. Dan could see that I was a bit nervous about the passage so he made his jokes and did his best to keep me at ease. I did my best to calm down and not show the true extent of my anxiety. After all, I’m the one he puts on the bow to see the things he can’t see from the cockpit. Yes, he has a lot of trust in me. I said a few prayers and quietly asked our guardians angels to watch over us as we cruised along.

The first few twists and turns through the reefs were not so bad. I was on the bow with my headset on and Dan was calling out the depth. The shallow spots were not as shallow as we expected since we were there near high tide. Once past those spots there was a pretty decent channel with about sixty feet of water. Of course a couple of hundred feet on either side of us there were these huge, shallow reefs with waves violently crashing on over them but I was just trying to stay focused. I knew the real test would come when we turned off to the east and started toward the anchorage.  

As we start to near our turn I climb onto the bowsprit so that I have a bit of a higher advantage to read the color of the water. Ironically, I have gotten pretty good and telling the depth by the color of the water. Who’d have believed I would ever have that skill in my bag?

Fortunately as we make the turn the sun comes out and it’s high in the sky. That always helps to see what’s under the surface and of course the crystal clear water doesn’t hurt either. Also it appears our charts are deadly accurate and we are moving through a perfect channel in between the reefs. It’s not a deep one, only 9-12’ but it’s a channel and it’s enough water for Dazzler. Of course the entire time my sphincter factor has gone from a cheery yellow to a blazing fire red! It won’t get better until we have an anchor firmly set into the ocean floor either.

Before I know it we are dropping the anchor. I put Dazzler in reverse and give her some throttle to back down on it. I’ve got a little ritual I go through as I watch the instruments…speed and depth mainly. Soon I let off the throttle and let Dan know we are secure. Today it’s not an anchor down beer for me. Nope, I went straight for a vodka drink…a well earned vodka drink at that!

As we sit in the cockpit congratulating each other on a smooth passage we are simply astounded by the sights and sounds around us. We are anchored in front of Kenutu Island and just to our right is Lolo Island, the huge rock we’d been watching last evening. Here we are now just 300 yards away and we are watching and listening as the Pacific Ocean crashes around and over it. There are blowholes in the middle of the island and it’s amazing! The sound the ocean makes as it forces the air from the blowholes is incredible. It reminds me of an angry elephant huffing and puffing. The water around Lolo is deep blue in places and clear, pale green in others. It’s such a sight that I could sit and look at it for hours and hours and never get bored.

We don’t stay on the boat long though because we know there’s plenty to see and do here. First up is to stop by the nearby boat and thank the Captain for his assistance and information. Well let me tell you, THAT was interesting. As we near their absolutely beautiful boat we see him drop into their cockpit and do something. We weren’t sure what but soon he comes out and we greet each other. He seems very nice as we sit and chat about the entrance to this anchorage. Soon, his lady comes from the bow. She’s butt ass naked! Yep…naked as a jaybird. She tries to discreetly step into their cockpit but hello, you can’t unsee what you just saw! She did put on some bathing suit bottoms but no top before she comes walking out and sits down with her boobies dangling at the rail just about a foot away from Dan’s head. I’m doing everything I can to avert my eyes but it’s kind of like that traffic accident on your way home, you just want to look at it. Not because I’m interested but because I can’t believe she came to greet total strangers like this. Thank goodness I had on sunglasses so she couldn’t see me looking directly at the dink floor. Dan, the master of observation, later told me he noticed that she had a nipple ring on that had several beads. He must have amazing peripheral vision as I never once saw him look directly at her. They aren’t young people either…probably in their 50’s or 60’s. Maybe it’s just me but there comes a time in your life when you should keep your nakedness to yourself and your mate. And I’m really not trying to be judgmental. I get that nudists exist and really don’t care. I just don’t want to have to see it. Given the environment we made our visit very short but they did invite us back for sundowners. We agreed even though I was a bit shocked and wondered what we’d come back to later in the afternoon. Whatever it is I will just keep trying to remember that we are on an adventure, right?

Next we headed to shore where we found the jungle path that leads to the other side of the island. It wasn’t a long hike but it did take us through a fairly dense and humid jungle. As we exit the jungle on the east side of the island we are greeted with some of the most amazing sights. The ocean is violently crashing on the island, which is made of lava rock. Lava rock is incredibly intense and rugged. It’s sharp and you certainly don’t want to fall on it or you’ll end up needing stitches. 

We spent about forty-five minutes on that side of the island just enjoying the rugged beauty God put there. The jagged shoreline actually reminds us of the California coast. Once our tour was complete we headed back to the other side of the island. It’s sort of crazy when you exit the jungle here. On one side the ocean is so intense and violent that you know she could kill you in a moment yet on the other side, just 300 or so yards away, the bay is so calm and beautiful you feel like you have reached Heaven itself. Heaven and Hell are so close to each other it’s crazy!

We took a little tour on Sparkle before heading back to the boat for a bit. We both took showers on deck and prepared for our sundowner experience. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that I was a bit on edge as we headed out. I was pleased to find once we neared their boat that both were completely clothed! THANK YOU JESUS!

WOW! What an amazing and beautiful boat they have there. It’s easily a $1.5 million yacht. You don’t even have to wench in the lines to sail. It’s all done electronically! And it’s appointed like a suite at the Ritz. They even have a washing machine and a dishwasher on board! It was pretty nice. Of course we are always looking at the potential issues and a boat that is completely electronically controlled means there is a lot that could go wrong. Computers, even marinized ones, are highly susceptible to corrosion and problems in this environment. As beautiful as she is, we’ll stick to the more simple stuff.

We had an enjoyable time with our new friends. They live in Vanuatu, which is not too far west of Fiji. It’s one of the poorest nations in the world. It’s a place we hope to see before we leave the South Pacific. Apparently they live on an island there and they rarely ever wear clothes! They say you get used to it but I’m thinking this southern belle would not! He said that clothes only serve two purposes… 1. They provide protection against the elements and 2. They prevent others from being uncomfortable. I would add that they prevent others from becoming physically ill at the sight of my naked body but, you know, that’s just me.

Anyway, we did have a nice time with them and enjoyed yet another great day in our adventure.

Until next time,

Jilly & Dan