We are in Tonga, the only Kingdom in the South Pacific. It was dubbed “The Friendly Islands” by the early explorer Captain James Cook. We have found it to be so.
We arrived in the Neiafu harbor around noon on September 13. There was no need to call ahead on the radio. Once we entered through the Channel markers we saw wharfs up on the left. The closest one was the “Fisherman’s Wharf” also known as the “Customs Dock”, and had a few yachts and fishing boats tied up to it. Yachts are requested to go to this dock when checking into the country. Once you are docked with your Q (quarantine) flag flying, the officials will come down to your boat.
(The dock is located before the Cargo Containers. If there is not a space at the dock, it is recommended that you raft up to another boat. It is a high overhanging concrete wharf, best at high tide. If there is an international flight arriving, we’ve heard you may have to wait a while. 🙂
Check-in was rather painless. Once we pulled up to the “Customs dock” / “Fisherman’s Wharf”, the customs / Immigration official showed up within 15 minutes. There were a BUNCH (10-15) forms to fill out. While doing that, health and quarantine came by. We paid $60 US, as we did not have any of the local currency. It would be about T$100 (Pa’anga, local Tongan currency).
In addition, the customs guy asked for a donation for his daughters school, we donated $5 and then he negotiated a bottle of rum from us. As he was reviewing the paperwork, he asked , “Do you have any hard liquor?” Then went into a discussion about how he likes to relax after his 6 days of hard work, yada yada yada. (We also heard he got 2 bottles of hard liquor from someone else and several others said they donated fish to him. This is our first time an official has asked for something extra. We have heard stories from other yachts in other countries being put in similar situations.)
Every morning at 0830, there is a cruisers net on VHF channel 26. It is run by the local businesses. We enjoy tuning in most mornings to hear the weather and local information which includes events, boaters assistance, a buy (wanted) and sell section. We were excited as got a $100 scuba tank, regulator and BCD. (Will help with the ease of boat cleaning.) Another score was a large (1-1/2″) stack of free paper charts for Australia! We also
A volunteer group called Vava’u Radio also monitors channel 16 and 26 and are there to provide assistance to Mariner’s. During our stay we heard them help with a couple medical issues and a charter boat grounding. It is very comforting to know they are available if needed.
We were anchored in Neiafu harbor for a couple nights. It felt great to be at anchor in a calm harbor after our passage. Our first night I joined friends for dinner at Mangos, a restaurant located on the waterfront. It was fun to catch up with Helen, Ian (Nightide) and Conner (Sea Casa).
On our second day, we dinghyed across the bay and tied up on the end of a finger dock, in the small boat basin (the closest dock to town). We met a Yachtie couple from New Zealand on the dock who helped us get our bearings. The first order of business was to drop off garbage (T$5). As we still needed to get local currency, our new friends, graciously paid for our garbage and then walked us up to the main street and showed us around. We stopped at an ATM to pick up cash, went to the open air market and bought some lovely fresh produce, purchased Digicel sim cards for internet access, and a few other goodies including wine.
It is a cruisers paradise here in Vava’u. After two nights anchored in the main harbor, we moved over to Port Maurelle, anchorage #7 and met up with our friends on Muskoka and Harlequin. (We had Cream of Wheat cereal to deliver to Muskoka, that we had purchased for them in American Samoa!)
When we arrived at Port Maurelle a mooring ball was available. It was so much simpler than anchoring! A local came by and collected T$15 for the length of our stay. It has been windy for several days, but this bay is nice and protected.
We had a wonderful week stay as we enjoyed snorkeling, swimming, a little standup paddle boarding, socializing with friends, catching up on extra sleep and as always working on boat projects.
We snorkeled at a nearby cave our first afternoon, went to “Swallow’s Cave” another day and snorkeled close to the anchorage several other days. We marveled at all the sea life we saw, including a variety of angel fish, lobsters, lion fish, butterfly fish, damselfishes, sea cucumbers, jellyfish, surgeonfishes, blue starfish, nudibranchs, clownfish swimming amongst the sea anemone and egg sacks that looked like red poppy flowers. We also saw a crown of thorns starfish, which is absolutely beautiful, but unfortunately has caused widespread damage to coral reefs.
One afternoon as we were working on a boat project on deck, I look out on the bay and saw a whales spout. We jumped in the dingy and motored over to the vicinity of where we had seen the spout. A whale watching boat was also there and we had an enjoyable 20 – 30 minutes watching a few Humpback whales swimming around, coming up to the surface and diving back down. It is magnificent to see their massive humps and their beautiful tails as they make their dive down.
We left Apia, Samoa last Monday and arrived in Neiafu, Tonga on Thursday. It was a 360 nm passage. We sailed in nice weather for the first 40 hours, then motored in calm conditions for about 4 hours.
Late afternoon on day three, we saw a line of dark clouds on the horizon that we are heading directly into, we got hit with rain and winds up to 30 knots. We were motor sailing close hauled with a reefed main. Waves would hit the hull and cascade up over the Dodger and Bimini and find their way into the cockpit. As I was feeling a little off, Dick took the brunt of the duty, with a mid-night till 0800 shift. (I tried to take over several times, but he kept saying he was ok.) He was such a sweetheart!
The next morning it was a real treat arriving to lovely lush islands and multiple anchorages which appear to be everywhere in the Tongan Vavu’u group.
We spent about 2 weeks in Apia, on Upolu. Apia is the capital of Samoa. We stayed in the Apia marina (which we understand the officials prefer versus the anchorage). The Apia marina is really just a small dock, within a 5 minute stroll, a bathroom and shower are available. Apia is a large city and downtown is about a 20 minute walk. (Taxi is 5 tala, about $2 US 🙂
On our first day walking around town, we got scammed twice for about $36. We have found that at first the scammers befriend you, “Hi, my name is Johnny, whats yours?” Or “I met you at Customs yesterday”‘ yada yada yada. Then the come in for the kill, “My kids school is raising money” or “I am coaching a rugby team and we are doing a fundraiser”. Throughout our travels a street sense has been important everywhere we have been! Maybe this time we have learned the lesson better? Now onto our more positive experiences.
The Samoan tourist office offers a free Cultural show that we very much enjoyed. It is about a 3 hour event where they have authentic music, cultural demonstrations (wood carving; open fire cooking; Tatau-tattooing using handmade tools of bone, tusk, turtle shell and wood; Tapa making-the cloth is made from peeling the inner bark of a paper mulberry tree branch, pounding and scraping it out to flatten it so the designs can be hand painted on; a traditional Samoan feast (that was yummy); dancing and they even taught us basket weaving. (Donations were fully optional).
We decided to do some site seeing while we were in Samoa. Lot’s of other Yachties ferried over to Savai’i, “the big island” and spent time enjoying it’s “pristine” scenery and white sand beaches. We chose to tour around Upolu. We rented a car with “Samoan” car rental, it was about $80 US a day, which also included insurance and a Samoan drivers license. Within our couple days we were able to drive most of the way around the island. If someone wanted to see more of the Island, it would be best to plan additional days.
Our first day we decided to drive across to the South-West coast. Our first stop was to visit the Baha’i temple and gardens in Taipatata. It is one of 7 Baha’i temples worldwide. The 22 acre tropical gardens were peaceful and beautiful. We spoke with the volunteer at the visitors center. I mentioned I was familiar with the Baha’i temple in Wilmette, Illinois and low and behold his wife had just sent him a picture of her standing in front of the temple, that very day! (Our small world.)
The rest of that afternoon we drove through the lush mountainous interior, observing the small villages, checking out a few of the beaches and resorts. We ended up driving back into the bustling city of Apia from the west. We enjoyed a romantic dinner at Giordanos Italian restaurant, who offer gluten free pizza and pasta!
Our second day we toured with friends Laurel and Leo from sv Summer. We decided to start the drive on the North-East coast and stopped at Falefa, a lovely small waterfall. As you walk down to the river you meander through beautifully manicured gardens. Once down at the water there are views along the river of the waterfall.
When we left the waterfall we decided to take the road closest to the ocean and continue South. When we rented the car we asked if we could drive on the roads marked 4-wheel drive. We were given the ok, however, after about a 45 minute drive through beautiful, tropical scenery with lovely ocean views we drove through a small village, came upon a Mormon church, at which point the road turned into grass! Whoops! (Looks like another communication misunderstanding.)
We made our way back to the main road and traveled to the South coast where we had a wonderful lunch in an spectacular setting at the Seabreeze resort. Next, the highlight of the day was the Sua Ocean Trench, which translates as “big hole”. A 30 metre deep hole with seawater at the bottom, which is accessed by a steep ladder. It is surrounded by lush vines and other greenery. The water was clear and very refreshing. The grounds of the site are stunning, as you are on a plateau looking out on crashing surf along the Ocean’s edge. There were Fale’s (wooden structures with woven roofs) scattered about the grounds where you could relax before and after your swim in the trench.
It is interesting that most of the land is owned by individual families, who have had the land for generations. They charge a small fee to use their land, whether it be a beach or waterfall or swimming hole. The families beautifully maintain these natural wonders.
Our final morning with the car we started with a lovely breakfast at Nourish Cafe, visited the Piula Cave pool and finished with a quick stop at “Crush Juice bar” a vegan restaurant. I got vegetarian sushi, it was an awesome treat!
As Leo (sv Summer) is a professional rigger, we decided to have him check over our running and standing rigging. We spent the majority of one day going over everything and now have a list of new boat projects. Leo did a fabulous job meticulously looking over our rig and expertly explaining the problems and solutions. There were a couple things he found that were in desperate need of a fix. We are very grateful for his services.
We spent one night at Aggie Grey’s Sheraton hotel, which was a real luxury. I loved hanging by the pool, swimming, sunning and sipping on coconut water. Dick took advantage of air conditioning and internet and we got all our devices updated! Laurel and Leo joined us at the hotel, we enjoyed our time hanging by the pool and sharing meals together. With the reasonably priced hotel room, you received a complementary 3 course breakfast. It was impressive and unexpected!
The internet is awesome at the hotel, if you stop by for coffee, tea or a meal they have complimentary internet (no password). We also had good internet aboard Maia, with Digicell sim cards (which had cheaper pricing than Pago Pago).
We enjoyed several other nice restaurants in Apia; Paddles and Tifaimoana, Indian Restaurant. Our favorite was the Nourish Cafe.
Unfortunately, while we were in Apia, there was lots of drama. Boats in the anchorage were searched and one boat was found to have a small amount of cannabis and paraphernalia aboard. This prompted an in depth search of boats in the anchorage (fortunately we were in the marina and were spared the ordeal of a search), but we had police hanging on our dock overnight guarding the offender’s boat. The single-hander was in jail for about a week while they did an intensive search of his boat. As we understand it, he is out of jail and awaiting a court date. This was a deplorable and unfortunate situation.
We slept well our first night in Pago Pago, American Samoa. Overnight we had some rain, but little wind, it was nice and calm, which was awesome after a passage. In the morning we were sitting in the cockpit relaxing and were welcomed by a local boater, who promptly let us know that we were anchored in “Slide Alley”. Pago Pago (pronounced Pango Pango) anchorage is well known for its not so friendly bottom. Anchoring is a skill, that takes a lot of time to master. (If anyone ever does?) Once you set your anchor, there can be a feelings of relief, joy, gratification, as now you hope to be safe and secure in your home on the water!
After hearing that we were in Slide Alley, we discussed our options. With the weather predicted to be calm for a few days, and the anchorage super busy, we decided to stay put until the wind decided to pick up again. Our friends, sv Summer, were in a good spot and they would be leaving in the next day or so, and we could take over “the” preferred spot. (We have heard that the best holding location is west of the Marina concrete wharf, near 14 16.440S 170 41. 667 W).
We arrived in Pago Pago on a weekend night. As we entered the harbor we called the Port Authority, but received no reply, so we continued into the anchorage. We were unsure if we would need to take Maia to the wharf for checkin on Monday. However, we walked to the harbor masters office and personally checked in with them, customs, health and agriculture. They are all located in the same building on the wharf. By the time we finished with these check-ins, (we spend some extra time at the harbor masters office enjoying a conversation with Frances) we needed to wait until the next day for Immigration (as they close at noon.) The immigration office is located up the road and has a big whale on the side of the building. The front guards were very helpful in pointing us to the correct office for our checkin. All checkins went well, though we had to come back to health and agriculture and knock hard on the doors, before we were helped. We also heard that if you checkin after 4:00 pm or on weekends there is a $150 charge.
Our first afternoon we made “dates” with friends to do laundry. This probably sounds a little strange, but they have real laundromats in American Samoa! The price was only $3 to wash AND dry, a large load of laundry. This is a big deal, since leaving the US, if we did not hand wash our laundry, we used laundry services or used marina’s washers and dryers. Those prices were expensive, we were paying from $10 to $30 for a load of laundry!
American Samoa is US territory, so the US dollar is the currency. It was refreshing not having to go to an ATM and get foreign dollars. We spent a little over a week in Pago Pago, it was great for stocking up on foods as we are still a couple months away from arriving in New Zealand. It was especially good for me with gluten free and dairy free products :). We had heard that Cost-U-Less was a warehouse type store (apparently a Costco affiliate). Much to my surprise and glee, they had some of my favorite products; including Lundberg Brown Rice Cakes, Garden of Eatin blue corn chips, multigrain chips, large amounts of raw nuts and gf flour. I even found Chocolate Coconut Bliss ice cream, (my favorite non-dairy ice cream) at the Forsglen market. We also located additionally “needed” products at the KS Mart. We found good produce in all stores, as well as local produce at a outdoor market near the dock.
The Internet worked fine for us; checking email, doing a little web surfing and catching up on friends and family on Facebook and Instagram. We purchased sim cards from the local internet provider, Bluesky, and were able to use our smartphone as a hotspot for other devices. Overall, prices seemed to be a little above US prices, which was to be expected as we are on a small Island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean!
Our friend Conner, from sv Sea Casa, had friends of a friend, Ian and Nerelle, who lived and worked on the Island. They live on Coconut Point. A real treat was spending an afternoon snorkeling with them (and taking real showers with hot water in their home.) After snorkeling they graciously drove us around to several grocery stores. We had 3 boats provisioning and we filled up the back of their Toyota Tacoma with all of our foodstuffs!
We did not do any real sightseeing, but did enjoy seeing the area mostly by bus, as we traveled around to the different stores to get supplies for Maia. Generally it seemed to be about a 20-30 minute ride. Every bus you get on seems to have a different “theme”. Our first ride was on a bus with a big screen showing WWE wrestling with the volume up! (Not what was expected in American Samoa!) Other days the bus ride was more enjoyable as music was playing and you could take in the scenery and observe the locals. As with most of the South Pacific we found a language barrier, as Samoan being the first language and English second.
Dick had an interesting experience trying to fill up the propane cylinder. He went to the bus depot and asked to go to butane refill terminal. His first bus ride took him to a store where they thought he wanted to exchange the bottle (this does not work as our fittings are different). Next, they took him back the other way to another store. Finally, he got on the correct bus and made it to the Origin Company in the village of Aua, where the bottle was filled with butane. After Dick finished he walked out front and a women stopped and asked if he wanted a ride. He graciously accepted and as they drove back to Pago Pago, she apologized as she stopped several times to deliver meals to seniors. It turned out she was the Chief of Aua, they had a lively conversation on local politics!
As we have been traveling thru the South Pacific we have continued to cross paths with the boats we met in La Cruz (Puerto Vallarta, Mx). It was fun to arrive in Pago Pago and meet up with some of our buddies, Summer, Sea Casa, Nightide. Once they all departed, Dazzler arrived and next, to our surprise Harlequin! Besides our laundry dates, we had fun eating a few meals out with friends at the Goat Island Cafe, (they had a $10 breakfast special that we really enjoyed).
We are on a three to four day voyage from Suwarrow to American Samoa (sailing between islands in the middle of the Pacific, kind of crazy?). We have had a good passage, steady winds have allowed us to sail consistently! We have also had 3-6 ft swell, that has been rocking us around a bit, but causing little havoc. I’ve been feeling good and have not needed any sea sickness medicine. Maybe we are finally getting used to this seafaring lifestyle 🙂
We have had a considerable amount of cloudy weather and some rain squalls. The solar panels have not been able to keep up with our power needs. We ran the engine for about 5 hours today to re-power the batteries. Our thoughts for the future are to supplement our current solar panels with wind power. We hope to purchase and install a wind generator while we are in New Zealand during the austral summer.
We had several frozen meals in our tiny freezer, which worked out perfect. We had yummy lentil soup and a delicious squash curry with coconut milk. We cooked some rice and just warmed up the meals, it has been super simple and delicious while we have been bouncing around. So nice to not be prepping and cooking food in a rocky and rolly galley! We will try to plan similar meals for future passages.
Today we topped up the water tanks with 3 plus hours of water making. It is gratifying that we are able to sail and make water. (It would be really sweet if there was a way without the loud generator). It is nice to know that we are able to be self-sufficient while out at sea.
As our speed was going to be putting our arrival time in Pago Pago at nighttime, we had discussed and decided to keep sailing to Apia, Samoa, about another 12 hours. However, we spoke with sv Sweet Chariot on the radio and they had heard that the harbor was well marked and well lit so it was ok to enter at night. After a short discussion as to whether we arrive in about 5 hours or sail another 17-20 hours, we quickly decided to head into Pago Pago harbor at night.
About this same time we heard our friend Conner, sv Sea Casa on the radio. He was anchored in the harbor and he said to feel free to call him as we got closer. When we were outside the entrance to Pago Pago we contacted him and he said there was space next to him in the anchorage and gave us GPS coordinates.
As we entered the Harbor we called the Port Authority, but received no reply. We continued carefully through the channel, using our B&G chart plotter and Navionics Charts on the Ipad. We had a little trouble not seeing the unlit cans and range markers with city lights around. Gratefully, at 2200 in the pouring down rain we anchored between Sea Casa and Barbarella, thankful to have anchor down and be able to get a full nights sleep.
We arrived in Pago Pago after 3 days – 13 hours, 460 nautical miles!
We arrived at the coral atoll of Suwarrow on August 3. When we were several miles from the entrance to the atoll, we heard chatter on the VHF radio. It was Helen from sv Nighttide and Julie from sv Manna. They were planning to meet for Yoga on the beach and also deciding on what day for a potluck. After 5 days out on the South Pacific Ocean and seeing only one vessel, it felt almost like a mirage. Beach Yoga and social events! We were getting excited for landfall!
As we motored into the pass, we notified the Park Rangers on radio channel 16 of our arrival. Once we got into the anchorage we realized how busy it was. We motored around looking for a spot, we knew a couple of boats anchored out in the deep water, it seemed like a safe place to be so we put our anchor down.
Within minutes of anchoring, Rangers, Harry and John were aboard. First order of business was bio-security. Spray the cabin with Arandee (an insecticide; permethrin and d-phenothrin, supposedly nontoxic to humans, possibly toxic to cats). Luckily we had been given a heads up so all food was safely put away, dishes, utensils, etc were covered with paper towels in their cabinets and drawers. Next we handed over our checkout paperwork from French Polynesia, lots of forms were filled out, passports looked at and pictures compared, rules discussed (no dumping food scrapes in the lagoon, as they wanted to keep the sharks outside of the reef 🙂
There are many reefs and several Islands in Suwarrow. You are only able to step upon Anchorage Island, which is pretty small (156 ft wide x 1 mile long). It took about an hour to walk around the island at low tide (otherwise swimming would be involved). It is super beautiful here. (There is a book, “An Island to Oneself”, that we read about Tom Neal, who lived alone in Suwarrow for several years.) It was super exciting to visit there.
When we first arrived we knew five boats from La Cruz, (Puerto Vallarta, Mx) and met other yachties, so we stayed super busy. We had Yoga on the beach quite a few mornings. Katie from sv Sea Casa had just become a full fledged instructor, before she came out to the Pacific. It was fun for her to teach her first Yoga classes on a desert Island beach in the middle of nowhere, and it was so awesome for us students to have actual classes! The setting was magnificent, as we are on the beautiful white sand beach, making sure we do not put our mats underneath a coconut Palm Tree, gazing out on the gorgeous water.
We also had social get togethers on the beach; an afternoon potluck, a game afternoon with board games & dominoes, a Pizza night and one evening we checked out the Coconut crabs after dark. (They are super cool, the biggest and oldest one we saw was about 18 inches long!) Sunset cocktails on the beach, basket weaving taught by assistant ranger John. John and Harry also showed us how to husk coconut’s and open them for their milk and the meat. It was fun watching the teens learning and continuing to partake.
Another afternoon we played games aboard sv Muskoka. Laurie and I started out playing Gin Rummy, then the kid contingent of Megan, Haley and Zennon arrived with Bingo. After several rousing rounds of Bingo, we moved on to Mexican Train Dominos. It was amazing how quickly the young ones learned the game. We had so much fun we are thinking of re-naming it to Camp Suwarrow or Suwarrow resort :).
The Snorkeling was the best we have had so far. We traveled by dingy to One Tree Island and another day to Seven Islands where we saw beautiful coral and many species of fish. However, the coolest snorkeling was right near the anchorage at Manta Ray reef, where we snorkeled with Manta Rays. Our first day, when we were about ready to head back to the dingy, we saw this amazingly large Manta Ray swimming towards us. It was so majestic, gliding through the water, slowly flapping its wing like pectoral fins, making a large arcing turn, floating up or floating down. So big and beautiful. It had white markings on its back that look like a heart with a line going out to the tips on its dorsal fins.
Our second day at Manta reef, a smaller Manta Ray swam nearby and as we were following it, another one swam towards us. It seemed as this one “wanted to play” as it swam around with us for 10-15 minutes. It would circle around the coral beneath us and glide this way and that, we were able to get some good pictures of this beautiful all black Manta. One of the snorkelers mentioned that they kind of felt like paparazzi, following the Ray’s, but it appeared as if the Ray’s did not mind their pictures being taken 🙂
We had beautiful sunrises and sunsets. We also had some different weather patterns come through. This anchorage is known for boats having anchorage problems and some dragging anchor and sinking! We were a little nervous when the winds picked up, especially from the South, as the fetch builds up across the lagoon. As we were blown this way and that throughout our 11 day visit, our anchor chain got tangled in the bombies (coral heads). Thank you Dan from sv Dazzler for coming to our rescue and scuba diving down 60 feet to untangle the mess under Miss Maia.
It is always hard to move on, we are on our way to American Samoa about a four day journey further West. Better internet? US products? We will find out soon enough.
— Sunday, July 29, day one of the passage
I’m starting my second night shift on our passage from French Polynesia to the Cook Islands. I am sitting in the cockpit watching the beautiful almost full moon (96% waning) rise up through the sky. We have been out here for a little over 24 hours. The weather has been comfortable, partly cloudy with temperatures around 80 degrees. The wind averaging around 15 knots today. We have been sailing at an average of 6 knots. We have a 5-6 foot swell, and are getting knocked around a little bit.
It is pretty wild thinking that we left one South Pacific Island group and are heading to another Island group with just Dick & I on our 41 foot sailboat! It will be around a 700 nautical mile journey from Taha’a to Suwarrow and we expect to be out for 5-6 days.
We have not seen any other vessels since we left yesterday. There could be another boat several miles away that we just do not see. Generally on a clear night you can see other boat’s lights when they are 5 – 10 miles away. If they have an “AIS” transmitting their position, we would see the vessel on either our Standard Horizon VHF Radio or B&G Chart Plotter when they are as far as 30 miles away. With radar, if they were a big ship, we’d possibly see them when they are as far as 36 miles away.
One of our nieces got married in Park City this weekend. It feels really weird not to be “home” celebrating with family. I’ve been feeling a little sad, but also realizing how fortunate we are to be on this adventure looking out on the water and seeing the shimmering moonlight, lighting up the sea and clouds all around us.
— July 31, our fourth night out
It is a dark and stormy night… (Is that plagiarism? Sorry Snoopy!) Let’s try it again…. The moon is below the horizon, and will be rising in a few hours. There appears to be many clouds in the sky (as only a few stars are seen). It is dark and hard to see what is around us. As I look out into the water I see strands of luminescence appear from the water flowing away from the boat, they are amazing to see and my outlook brightens.
Around 2000, the wind began swirling around and softened. Earlier at sunset we had a little bit of rain and now it is super humid! We are motoring at around 6 knots and we will continue to motor for as long as the wind stays light. We still have about a 3 foot swell and the ride aboard Maia is fairly comfortable.
It feels like we are getting into a groove. I finally slept well last night (off at 0200, then relieve Dick at 0800). I took one nap early afternoon and slept a couple hours. Dick took a morning nap once I relieved him. This afternoon we did a little “cooking”. We cut up cucumbers for pickles and also a bottle of other veggies. This is our first experiment with pickling, hopefully they will be tasty! (They were 🙂
The sky is brightening up as the moon prepares to rise. I can begin to see the clouds about in the night sky. Off the starboard to the North, I see a low line of black clouds. Looking to the South, clouds appear higher in the sky and I see a few stars. As the moonlight increases it reminds me of dawn, but now there is no real color, just gray hues with some blue. The water is almost glossy and the luminescence becomes more beautiful.
It’s only 2200… I’ll need to stay awake for the next 4 hours so maybe I’ll stretch, do push-ups, a few stair steps, have a dance party. Read, listen to podcasts, play word puzzles, Sudoku, continue to write, gaze out into the ocean and sky. It is amazing how quickly those six hours may go.
The black clouds that were off to the North are now in front of us and we get a few sprinkles. The clouds show up on the Radar in deep red with yellow and orange, they almost look like thunder clouds (cumulonimbus) puffy and expansive.
The moon has risen and even though the sky is mostly filled with clouds there is a moon glow lighting up all around us. Now when I do a 360 look about, I can see what is out on the deep blue sea. I’ve caught a few glimpses of La Luna, but she appears rather elusive this evening.
—August 2, night six
What a difference a night makes :). It is calm and clear, we have 6-8 knots of wind and are cruising along around 3 knots. The sky is filled with stars, the Milky Way is spectacular. At the beginning of the night, Venus was leading our way as we are heading West toward her beam of light. The Southern Cross appears to be at the bottom of the Milky Way, off of the port side.
We had a wonderful sail today with winds around 10 knots. We are sailing close hauled and Maia likes this wind angle and sails well. The waves have calmed down to around a 1 foot swell. That makes everything feel better :).
During Dick’s early morning shift, at 0300, he saw our first vessel on AIS, sv Anila was 12 miles away, by 0830 they were 6 miles off our port side. When I came up to take over I could see Anila sails shinning in the sunlight, like beacons. A nice sight after 6 days, and awesome to have company out here. We gave them a call on the radio and they are heading to Suwarrow also. We have mutual cruiser friends at the anchorage.
August 3 at 1255 – Anchor down at Suwarrow! The journey was 6 days (including sail repair time), 723 nautical miles
[Thanks to all of you that have been following along on the journey. It has been great to receive messages from people, it boosts our spirits!]
We enjoyed our short stay in Raiatea and Taha’a. Friday morning (July 27) after a rain and wind squall passed over and gave Maia a nice bath, we motored down to the fuel dock in Raiatea. It was a little busy, so we motored around in circles for about 10 minutes before pulling in. Sailing Vessel (sv) Abundance, Yvonne and David helped tie us up to dock. They were fueling and filling water before moving to the adjacent city dock. After a quick and easy duty-free fueling session, we also moved over to the City dock. We enjoyed a wonderful lunch with Yvonne and David (spontaneity can be an awesome thing) before our final grocery shop in the Champion market (located directly across the street from the dock). We wanted to pick up a few more veggies (they had awesome SWEET carrots, beets) and good chocolate (Carefour brand 70% cacao).
As by now it was 1530, we quickly motored to Taha’a near the “Coral Garden”, anchoring just before Sunset. As we did not have a clear view of the sun setting, we quickly hopped in the dingy and motored over for a clear view of Bora Bora and our final sunset (and green flash!) in French Polynesia :(. Dingying back we noticed we were anchored next to sv “Umnyama” (rainbow in South African) we said hi and were invited up for a drink with Monique and Dick.
Our final morning in French Polyenesia, we readied Maia for our journey to the Cook Islands. We went to the “Coral Gardens” and enjoyed floating superman style in the drift, admiring the fish and occasional beautiful coral. There was such a strong current it was hard to swim upstream. (I enjoyed a swimming workout trying :).
Back to Maia for a 12:30 departure. As we headed toward passe Paipai Dick began raising the main, as it neared the first spreader it got stuck. Looking through the binoculars it was easy to see we had a problem, so Dick brought it back down. We had a 8″ rip in the mainsail luff tape at the peak! Out came the sail repair tape and hand sewing gear. Once I had stitched on the sail repair tape patch, adjacent to the luff, we decided pull the Sailrite sewing machine out on deck and machine stitch on the rest of the patch. We dropped anchor in a bay near the pass through the reef. It felt good to know how to make the sail repair, thankful for lessons learned in my earlier days.
Finally at 1630 we exited Tahaa through Paipai pass, heading further West towards Suwarrow and the Cook Islands! We are out at sea again! Check out our track on the tracking page.
We finally left Huahine at the end of our third week. We had not intended on staying in there so long, but first there was lots of wind (and it seemed like a safe place to be), then the weather turned nice (so we pumped up the kayak and paddle board and did some paddling), then we found free (pretty good) internet at city hall to get our banking, bill paying and other important tasks accomplished on line, THEN there is the large grocery store where fresh produce and farm fresh eggs are available 6 days a week from locals selling outside the market. The dingy dock is very accessible and the town of Fare is a chill place to be.
This week the weather changed to absolutely perfect. We finally had some calm weather! On Sunday we went for a bike ride to Mauve. We stopped at a couple Marae (ancient religious sites) and a wonderful museum built to replicate a building that existed on the site. We rode past the lake where they had made fish traps out of rocks. They start wide, then narrow down into a curving pools. Depending on the wind direction and tides the locals would expect certain types of fish. Sundays are a good time to get out pedaling on the roads because most of the locals stay close to home.
We had a great time in Avea bay even though we had lots of rain and wind. We hung out with Laurel and Leo a bit from sv Summer. We had met briefly in La Cruz, Mx, they were part of the 50 or so boats who sailed down from there. We had fun one night playing Chicken feet dominoes aboard Maia, after happy hour and dinner on shore.
One morning the sun was shining and there were calm winds. We pulled out our 5 gallon buckets, new plunger and clothes line and washed the laundry. It was the first time using the plunger and it worked great for both the wash and rinsecycle:). As I was swirling the clothes around it was easy to see how they came up with the action in a washing machine! Things dry quickly on a clothesline, however sheets especially need to be managed regularly with the wind gusting them all about.
After our wonderful stay in Avia bay we headed back to the Surfers anchorage at Fare, (called the surfer’s anchorage as it is close to both passes through the reef and great waves. It’s a bonus being able to check the surf from Maia). Our intention was to just stay a couple days, before heading over to Raiatea, Taha’a and then Bora Bora. However, with all cruisers, “Plans are written in the sand at low tide”. Once we found the good free internet at The City Building of Fare, heard that the stores in Bora Bora were just ok and the anchorage there super crowded with other cruisers, we decided to stay on in Fare, check out of French Polynesia there, then head to Raiatea for fuel and our last grocery shop.
We spent 3 days on “administrative” work, getting Maia ready for the voyage, and provisioning. We snuck in some fun with paddling, snorkeling and swimming 🙂 Oh, yea, we also went to Izzy’s buger (proprietor/cook is from Orange County, Cal. She and her husband came to visit 20 years ago and decided they wanted to live here!) I had a veggie burger, no bun with french fries, Dick got the special Izzy’s buger with the local Tahitian beer, Hinano.
Checking out of French Polynesia went well with the Gendarme. We stopped in Tuesday morning and after a session at the gendarme’s desk with Google translate, he requested we come back on Wednesday morning at 7:00. Paperwork filled out by 8:00 (with a little difficulty with not speaking French, thank goodness for the internet). Then back at 2:00 to get the final clearance and our passports stamped!
As we were pulling up anchor at Surfers anchorage, I heard a flutter and looked over across the wheel. To my surprise in the other corner of the cockpit sat a Brown Boobie bird! They had been sitting on the boom earlier. With a little friendly persuasion from Dick, it flew out of the cockpit!
We arrived in Raiatea today and are anchored in baie Vairahi. Besides the mosquitos it is nice and quiet!!!! Though early in the morning we woke to a strong squall that had us up closing hatches!