Friday, September 26, 2008

Lots of boats moving on

Monday, September 22, 2008
Anchored north of Mala Island, Anchorage #6

Numerous boats checked out of Vava’U on Friday; some headed off to Fiji and others planned to head south with plans of passage to New Zealand sometime in the next month or so.  Our friends on S/V FREE SPIRIT also cleared out but didn’t make it very far because the SPCZ (South Pacific Convergence Zone – similar to the ITCZ) expanded over this area and conditions became unfavorable for sailing south.  The SPCZ is predicted to dissipate over Tonga in a few days.  We will wait for more favorable weather before clearing out of this group and sailing south to the next group of Tongan islands.  Definitely not sailing south when winds are coming out of the south.  We have plenty of time and are not in a hurry at this point and see no sense in beating upwind when it isn’t necessary.

When we arrived in Neiafu Harbor last Thursday there was only one mooring ball available.   Another boat had pre-paid for this particular mooring for a month; their engine doesn’t work and this particular mooring was situated in such a place that they could sail to pick it up == right in the middle of the mooring field but all the other moorings were placed in such a manner that it was possible for them to sail up to this ball.  We checked with the company that manages the moorings and they told us that boat had left to visit outer anchorages for a few days, so it would be okay for us to stay on their mooring for 2 nights as long as we agreed to immediately get off the mooring if the other boat should arrive unexpectedly.  Sounded fine to us. 

Mid-morning on Friday the boat with no engine arrived back without notifying the management company that they were returning early.  Bill was just getting into our dinghy to leave for an hour when the management company hailed us and told us we must get off the mooring right then.  Bill climbed back aboard and we quickly released the mooring and moved out of the path of the boat sailing in to pick it up.  Luckily our friends on FREE SPIRIT were on a mooring nearby.  They graciously allowed us to raft-up with them.  A 43-ft catamaran and a 53-ft ketch tied off on one mooring ball.   That is a lot of weight and a lot of windage for one mooring.   But there was not a hint of wind at the time so no one was worried about it.  We all went into shore for a delicious lunch of grilled fish open-face baguette sandwiches and the best onion rings any of us had ever tasted, followed by wonderful milkshakes.  What treats! 

We returned to the boats and FREE SPIRIT departed with intentions of anchoring somewhere for the night and sailing off south to Ha’apai early next morning.  We stayed on that mooring for another 2 nights.  Planned to go to Tonga Bob’s for dinner since we have not yet visited that bar/restaurant, but ended up not getting off the boat because the rain started due to expansion of the SPCZ. 

Early Sunday afternoon we motored over to Mala Island because we had reservations for the weekly Pig Roast.  Weren’t sure they were still planning to do the pig roast because of the rainy weather, but we could not contact them via VHF radio so we felt obligated to show up for our reservation.  Anchorage #6 is not the easiest place to set an anchor.  It is pretty deep --- right up to the point where it is pretty shallow.  The varying depths along with lots of coral patches and big rocks make it difficult to set an anchor.   But Bill did a great job of picking out a patch of sand in acceptable depth and we managed to set anchor on the first attempt.  Let’s hope that when it is time to go again that the anchor comes up as easily as it went down.

Shortly before sunset, or what would have been sunset if there had been any sun visible, we noticed the skiff from Mala Island Resort going over to Lucky’s Beach and picking up boatloads of guests.  Figured that meant the pig roast was on.  I dressed in long pants and long shirt and covered myself in bug spray and we went ashore to check this thing out.  We put Bill’s rain jacket and our boat keys on the last available table in the dining area and then walked down the hillside to the beach where 4 local Tongan gujys were turning long poles over an open fire and roasting 4 suckling pigs.

Those PETA people would have conniption fits if they could see a traditional pig roast.  Bill and I are dedicated carnivores and even I felt a twinge of sympathy for the 4 baby pigs being roasted.  The cute little things reminded me of puppies for some reason.  Sure am glad we waited and arrived late and the pigs were almost fully-cooked.  Seeing these little things with the long poles run through their butts and mouths would have been a bit much for me if the little babies had still been pink.  Just think; they were running around earlier that morning and now had poles run completely through their little bodies and were twirling over a hot fire.  But enough about sympathy for the pigs.  Pigs are supposed to be eaten; and they are best eaten when still sucklings.  Being cute doesn’t change that fact.

We wandered back to the dining area and browsed magazines and people watched while the pigs finished roasting.  Turned out that we had the best table in the house because the serving tables were set up right next to us.  One of the Tongan guys placed 4 tables together and then covered them with freshly washed banana plant leaves and other greenery.  That is the traditional Tongan way of serving food.  Normally the food is also eaten by hand off a large leaf, but since this is a tourist resort we were provided with plates and cutlery.  Large bowls of salads, fresh fruit, baked potatoes, and pans of baked clams and mussels were placed on the serving tables.  Then they set the roasted little pigs on the table – standing up on their tiny little roasted legs and facing right at our table where we sat 4 feet away.  Their empty eye sockets caused the eyelids to close and they almost looked like they were smiling while asleep.

Friday September 26, 2008

I cleared us out of Vava’U this afternoon.  As soon as the 2 divers finish cleaning the bottom of our boat we will leave the main harbor and move to an outer anchorage.  Weather is predicted to be favorable for the 60 mile passage south to the Ha’apai Group on Sunday; so that is what we plan at this point.  Should not have internet there so might not update the website for a few weeks.

A few nights ago we were invited for drinks on a 105-ft yacht anchored nearby.  The owners are from St. Thomas and they noticed that our hailing port is St. Thomas, so they stopped by and invited us over.  Beautiful boat and very nice people.  Neither Bill nor I ever got the name of the boat, but it was lovely and luxurious and really big.  They insisted we stay for dinner.  Their cook whipped up a great meal; even had cannolli with chocolate sauce for dessert.  Try to find the ingredients for something like that locally!

Last night we were part of a team playing trivia at Tonga Bob’s.  Our team was named Who Flung Poo.  None of our team members were very good at trivia and we were the last-placed team for the evening, but it was fun.  Tonga Bob’s serves Mexican food – the strangest Mexican food imaginable.

Will be sorry to leave Vava’U.  I really like the area and the people.  One of our favorite places even though the weather has been dreary and cold for most of our stay here.

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