Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Rocks, Kingdoms, Pigs and a Farewell

S/V Aspen – July 1, 2010 – Log #44
Position: 18 degrees 39.0' S 173 degrees 59.0' W (UTC +13 Hours)
Kingdom of Tonga

Niue was our landfall after we left Rarotonga, Cook Islands. The Cook
Islands are well-known as a tourist destination for New Zealanders and
they flock there for their vacations because of all the nice beaches,
snorkeling and nice people. Niue on the other hand is not on the normal
tourist route. Niue has less than 2,000 tourists in a season, other
than yachts that visit there.

Niue is a flat limestone rock in the middle of the ocean with nothing
around it. The anchorage area is not very protected and it can be
uncomfortable. However, Niue is a nice way to break up the long,
difficult and bouncy sail to Tonga so we decided to stop and have a
look. It was also nice to get out of the large seas too!

Wow!!! The water around Niue is the clearest water in the world. The
Niue Yacht Club lays out moorings to attract the passing sailor so we
tied to one that was in 120 feet of water and could easily see the
bottom below us. Because the island is limestone there is no sediment
to run into the ocean to cloud the water. Also, because the water is so
deep right up to the shore whales spend their time here playing among
the moored yachts. We didn't see any whales because we were about a
month too soon. Oh well.

The island welcomed us with open arms. The locals were extremely
friendly and the Yacht Club could not do enough for us. The commodore
even drove us around in his ancient Mercedes car showing us the sights
of Niue. The really really disappointing thing that we encountered here
was that the island had run out of beer. Yes, the island had no beer!
The shipping terminal screwed up the last order and forgot (?!?) to
order beer for the island. The next supply ship is not due to arrive
until about the middle of July with their next supply. There might be
an uprising by then.

The island is riddled with caves, caverns and arches to explore. Hiking
on the jagged limestone was interesting but the rewards at the end of
the trail were well worth the effort.

The landing for our dinghy was very strange because there is no place to
put the dinghy to get ashore. Well to fix this, the islanders built a
crane with a cable that we grab and attach to the dinghy while it is
floating in the water. Then the entire dinghy is lifted onto a concrete
dock area and we leave the dinghy there. When it is time to return to
our boat we simply hoist the dinghy up with the crane again and plop it
in the water as we scramble into it and roar away. What an experience
that was!

After too short of a time on Niue it was time to sail to Tonga.

It took two overnights to reach the Kingdom of Tonga, the smallest
Kingdom in the world. Yes, a monarch still rules this land where 170
beautiful islands are sprinkled among a shallow azure sea. Tonga is the
first country in the world to usher in a new day. Yes, we crossed the
international date line now so we are a day ahead of all of you! I
guess we can see the future so if you want to know what is going on just

The Tongan people are Polynesian in origin and speak Tongan, along with
some English. The harbor where we anchored is called Neiafu, Vavau,
Tonga. This anchorage does not roll and is entirely protected from the
seas and winds. We can finally sleep at night here!

There are many reasonably priced restaurants just a short dinghy ride
away, run by New Zealanders, Australians and Canadians. They really
appreciate the sailors who arrive here because we provide 98% of the
income for the town. The food is pretty good with burgers, pizza, and
lots of fish dishes. Internet is supposed to be available but as usual,
the system seems to have become non-functional at the moment. Geeze.

We attended a local church service on Sunday and the singing nearly
lifted the roof off the old building! The reverberated amongst the
hillsides for miles around the village. It was quite spectacular to
hear them sing the Hallelujah chorus.

Captain Steve is able to run on the roads again and dodging the many
pigs is a challenge. Pigs run loose everywhere here, throughout the
villages and around the countryside. They are fast little things so you
have to watch out not to stumble over any of them at times!

The Rally yachts sailed together to another bay for a Tongan feast one
night. A long table with palm fronds was filled with every local fish
delicacy you could imagine. Along with the fish we had chicken, pig of
course, and many many types of fruit. The local people performed their
native dances for us and these included the fire dance before the feast
began. Every meal includes Kava which is the local traditional drink.
It is made from some kind of root and it is a type of alcohol. It
tastes like dirty dish water we thought!

The whale season is about to begin in Tonga and there should be more
boats arriving to watch the spectacle of whales breaching and splashing
about. For us it will be time to leave for the islands further to the
west, Fiji!

This is a journal of our experiences as we sail around this big blue
ocean. My Mother enjoyed reading our entries and passing them along to
her friends. She will be missed. The light from the full moon danced
around the waves as Maria and I sailed in the southern ocean towards the
island of Tonga. But something didn't seem right that night of June
25th. The sea was confused and even though the moon was full it's light
was not as bright as it usually is. Something was wrong. Steve's mother
passed away that night...

Sail on sail on Aspen...

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