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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!


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