11 May 2017

Arriving Tonga

Tongan ensign
Made it!

Having been thwarted by TC Ita then a gearbox failure in 2014 (the delays from which resulted in us being forced to sail direct NZ-Fiji), finally we made it to Tonga!

Arriving in the lee of Eua Island at 2 AM, we stumbled around a bit in the dark to find anchoring depth not too close to shore, before dropping the hook and breaking out the rum. Nobody wanted it, but hey: it's Tradition!

It was rather nice to be out of the gale and, after days of roaring along at 8-9 kts, the silence was a little spooky!

OK, we're here. Now what...?
Up with the sun, we raised the ensign and Q-flag then set off for Tonga's capital on Nuku'alofa's, Tongatapu and the CIQ arrival process. Along the way we prep'ed the boat, expecting an NZ- (or even Fiji-) style examination for dangerous & toxic foodstuffs.

No reply to our calls to the Port Authority on ch16 or 14, but we did hear two other yachts chatting about berthing in the harbour as if they'd just arrived (they had, also from NZ) and they gave us some pointers. We ended up rafting alongside a third new arrival: X-412, Nelly Rose to wait for a stream dribble of officials to show up in their own good time: Bio-security, Health, Immigration (each with their own raft of forms) but no Customs! We eventually visited them in their office at the main port the next day.

Big Mama's
However, job done, and without losing any of our rations, solid or liquid!

We were now 'encouraged' to leave the harbour (read: thrown out), so we happily motored a couple of miles over to Big Mama's resort on Pangaimotu Island, in company with four other yachts that were waiting for the breeze to drop. Still blowing a bit of a hooley, Arthur was beside himself with excitement. He could now kite surf!

Given the (gusting) 40 kts whistling through the anchorage, the rest of us tended to agree with the sentiments of the neighbouring yarpie skipper:

"What da faark?!" he shouted (a phrase that we must have mimicked a hundred times over the following weeks) as the kite whistled past, but Arthur was in seventh heaven...

Arthur... in 7th... Heaven.

10 May 2017

Fast Reach to Tonga

Checking in with The Boss
We check in with Base Ops (SWMBO) every morning & evening by Satphone when we're offshore, and Sue passes on our texts to the 'fan club', family and friends who like to follow our progress.

In the absence of a GPS tracker, it's the simplest way to keep in touch with position updates. Far easier than twiddling knobs on the HF!

Here are some of the texts from our Raoul-Tonga leg...

Sat, 6 May, 2100   S27 51 W176 52  Making good speed with 1 reef and full jib under a bright moon. Tuna curry 4 dinner!
Sun, 7 May, 0830   S 26 30 W176 08  Going well. 174 nautical miles in last 24 hours. Just popped in reef 2 main and jib at 25 kts and still making 8 kts so ETA dawn Tuesday. 
Sun, 7 May, 2020   S25 11 W175 29  Another lovely moonlit evening. Tramping along at 9 kts. Still with 2 reefs.
Mon, 8 May, 0800   S23 47 W175 10  Another good 24 hr run. 173 nautical miles still with 2 reefs. Wind up to 30 kts but aft of the beam. Seas lumpy so plenty of surfing. Sausage stew last night - compliments to the chef!
Mon, 8 May, 1400  Reply ref conditions: Comfy enough here at 8 kts which will see us in the lee of 'Eua' Island about 2am where we will wait and then approach Nuku in daylight. 95 nm to go. Final stretch. What are the French election results?
Mon, 8 May, 2015  S22 13 W174 58  <50nm to lee of Eua island so ETA there still 2am. Rest there then into Nuku in daylight. Will call on arrival. Your chicken dinner today. Tick, VG!
Tue, 9 May, 0400  Safely at anchor NW side of Eua Is. Arrival tot (tradition), hot porridge, then some bunk time before moving up to Nuku in the morning for official arrival. Chat in the AM. xxx


The 30 kts mentioned above was the wind strength we were experiencing 'apparent'. The reinforced Trades were actually giving us up to 40 kts 'true', but no need to worry anyone.

With 2 deep reefs, a bright moon, and both wind & seas behind us, the extra breeze simply gave us a fast & fun, if sometimes wet, crossing!

Funnily enough, it always seemed to be Arthur on the receiving end...

9 May 2017

Leg 2: Raoul Island - Tonga

Weather situation 9 May 17
(click to enlarge)
Our shore-based weather team had been watching TC Donna with interest.

It was still building over Vanuatu, but the forecasts had it eventually moving south to New Caledonia, then rapidly SE. If it stuck to that route, it would pass safely to the west of us.

However, another slow-moving depression had now been identified over northern Tonga: TC Ella. Although less powerful than Donna, this one was a lot closer and it's path uncertain. And we would be sailing right towards it! Best get going before it made up its mind...

NZ ensign drop #2
So at first light, on Saturday 6 May, after a 24-hour break, we dropped the New Zealand ensign for the second time, and departed Raoul for Tongatapu, a distance of about 530 nm.

High-speed dash
With two cyclones to our north, and a High to the south, we could expect heavily reinforced trade winds as we sailed north of 25 S - and that's exactly what we got!

With 30, rising to up to 40 kts on the beam in reasonably flat waters (at least to start with) it was easy to crack on at 175 nm per day.

Hammering along at 9 kts under 2 reefs can be quite noisy though...!

5 May 2017

Drone view of the Kermadecs

OK, everyone's doing it now!

Here's an excellent birds-eye view of the Kermadec Islands, courtesy of Magique. See if you can spot us!