Posted by: catamarantwooceans | August 15, 2010

More of Vava’u

10.8.10 – Tuesday – In the morning announcement is made on the cruiser’s net (channel 26, 0830, Monday to Friday) that in the evening a lecture by and Israeli dolphin expert will take place in the Aquarium café. I thought they said 8:30 pm. A little later both Tavita and Ashley show up.


 A price is agreed upon and delivery is set for Wednesday afternoon. We pass the day walking around town, surfing the where we met some other cruisers. Since tomorrow’s morning will be free, I arranged to go on a diving trip at 0900. After dinner on the boat we go ashore for the lecture, only to learn that it just finished having started at 1830! We do get to meet Sophie Donio, who works in the Dolphin Reef in Eilat, Israel and have a nice chat.

11.8.10 – Wednesday – Going ashore at 0850, we meet Rick, with whom I was supposed to go diving. “The boat broke down” he says. All the other diving operators leave at 0800, so there will be no diving for me today.

We found a good place for technical supplies, “Sun motor parts services” and bought a battery to replace the port engine one, which is close to three years in service and is too tired to be of any use.

No word from Tavita and Ashley, I am really apprehensive regarding the windlass repair. As evening approaches I call Tavita. “I am assembling it now” he says. We plan on eating at the “Giggling Whale” where a music and dance groups will perform.  Tavita will bring the windlass to the restaurant. I also arrange to dive with “Beluga Divers” tomorrow morning.

The restaurant is full of people and the kitchen find it hard to cope. The group play string instruments with an old Palang (foreign) lady joining in with a violin.


 They also dispense to whoever wants it a drink of local Kava. Kava is made by pounding the roots of a certain pepper tree and mixing them with water. It has some narcotic properties and is said to makes the lips and mouth numb and the drinker happy. Drinking Kava has a ceremonial meaning in the island of Tonga and Fiji and I was looking forward to try it. Well… think of fine sawdust mixed with water. That’s Kava. Maybe in the old days, when they used to produce it by having the old ladies of the village masticate the root and spit it into the communal bowl…

Just before we got our meals Tavita and Ashley arrived with the windlass. Hurray! I had a beer with them and rejoined Meir. During the meal a group of very young dancers joined the show. Most people seemed to like it but I thought it was artificial and even demeaning to the performing kids. (At some moment Sandy, the restaurant owner, invited the guests to put money bills on the oiled skin of the dancing girls, “It is the custom here” he said.

12.6.10 – Thursday – As I woke up and came out to the cockpit I saw that the windlass was leaking oil. Not a lot but unacceptable! Called Tavita and arranged for him to take the windlass from Beluga Divers, fix and return it. Two dives with Beluga: on a scale of 1 to 10= I give it 6-7 at the most. The only special thing was a large bed of Anemones with a lot of clown-fish hiding in them. Not so spectacular but I was happy to be underwater again after more than a year.

After lunch we took the refurbished windlass to the boat and by 3 pm had it in place and working.  We slipped our mooring lines and sailed to Port Maurelle, a protected but crowded anchorage. We used the catamaran’s low draft to go closer to shore than all other yachts and anchored in 4 meters.

13.8.10 – Friday – We downloaded the forecast and it didn’t look too good. Winds will be ESE 20+ for the next three days. While posing no threat to sailing in the protected waters of Vava’u, these conditions may prevent us from anchoring at night in remote, less protected enchanted bays. This morning mission was to look for whales. One of the sailing guides specified an area between the islands of Sisia and Ovalau where Humpbacks will surely be seen and we sailed there using the second reef in order not to sail too fast for watching and trolling. The whole area is quite small and we covered it in less than 45 minutes seeing no whales and catching no fish.

To the south of us, anchoring  in the lee of Fonua-Lai, we saw two Wharram catamarans, one of which had a very short mast. Now there is only one cat that I know that has a mast like this! It’s John Jameson’s on Taraipo, whom I met in Trinidad in 2007 and later in Papeete in 2009. John and Nicole, his partner, are fun guys. They sail with no engine and their short mast distances that bigger and better equipped boats only dream about. We approached them and dropped our anchor to their port. There is no refrigeration on Taraipo, so every time we meet I bring some ice cold beer, so we took some bottles and went for a visit.


They left French Polynesia and sailed to Palmerston atoll but the weather was so rough they were not able to take up a mooring. Continued in the direction of Niue but again could not stop and found a refuge in Tonga. As the hurricane season approached they went to New Zealand. Nicole flew to Switzerland for three month while John was doing repairs to the 40 years boat. They also got a new engine! A used 2 cylinders Yanmar that works like a charm, making their life so much easier.

 Plans? Maybe Samoa, eventually to Australia. Nicole confides in me that she feels her sailing days (years!) are coming to an end; the trip from NZ to Tonga was frightening. I remembered that she used to make jewelry from sea shells and she brought out her collection.

Meir, John and Nicole

We left them to go to our night anchorage – Vaka’eitu, another bay where the jungle comes to the water line. 

14.8.10 – Saturday – The forecast became a reality with strong wind and choppy seas. This was not a day to sneak into twisting channels in reefs. We decided to sail to Hunga, where there’s a big lagoon, protected from all directions. We went out of the anchorage and used the main with a double reef. I was going to troll a line for fish and did not want to go too fast.  We turned around Vaka’eitu and headed west. Now the wind was directly on our stern, gusting up to 30 knots. At one point we had to jibe, which can turn into a violent maneuver unless done properly. I was winching the mainsail in when the reel started screaming. A fish! I rushed to the reel and tightened the friction nut so that the line will not run out completely, we finished the jibe and then I turned my attention to the fish. The boat was flying along at more than 7 knots and the pressure on the rod was great. I was working hard to pull the fish in and was rewarded by taking a houndfish, first time for me.


 By that time we were closing fast on Hunga’s southern tip, aiming to pass between the reef connected to it and a cluster of rocks further to the south over which the sea was breaking menacingly.  Once we turned north and entered the lee of the island, the sea and wind calmed and using the engines we approached the lagoon’s entrance. One source said it was 200 feet wide (about 60 meters). Another gave it 35 meters. My estimate is no more than 25! The next picture shows a cat at least 6.5 meters wide going in.

narrow pass

 Inside we saw an Amel called Asolair, a name I remembered from an article they published in one of the yachting magazines. We found a spot to anchor and then I had to clean the fish. Half an hour later we had some fresh Sashimi and three meals for two in the freezer.

15.8.10 – Sunday – I promised Meir a Sunday church service so we went ashore and walked the village dirt roads. This was not an affluent village but, of course, it had three churches. One of the local ladies invited us to come to her church, the Tongan Free Church. The service was all in the Tongan language but the harmonious singing was what I came for and it was beautiful.

ringing the church bell

Back at the boat we thought we’ll go whale searching combined with fishing. We went out of the lagoon and sailed around a bit before heading back to Nieafu. No whales and no fish… We are hoping to leave for the Ha’apai island group tomorrow.


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